Chances are good you will be spending some vacation time this summer with older family members. If so, take the opportunity to have “the talk.” There’s never a good or easy time to talk with older parents about their finances and estate plans. But taking advantage of a relaxing moment –well before problems arise – can improve the odds of success.
The Talk You Need to Have With Your Parents
Whether you or your parents think it’s none of your business, it is. You are most likely the one(s) who will need to deal with all the financial issues your parents leave behind when they become incapacitated or after they die.
Not knowing anything about their finances will place you at an immediate disadvantage, making what will be a hard job almost impossible.
So how do you get the conversation started? Here are some tips from a recent New York Times column on the subject:
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Think about what you need to know. You need to know more than where to find the will, you need to know if parents have executed powers of attorney, advance health care directives or a trust as well. You need to know if they have life insurance or other assets and, if so, where the policy is located. You need to know if they keep a list of all their debts and, if they bank and pay bills online, you need their log-in information for each account.
Bring in a support team. Your parents may feel more comfortable discussing financial issues with their attorney or financial planner present to facilitate the conversation. They may also feel more comfortable talking with all their children at once, or to only one – take family dynamics into consideration. And call us in at the beginning of the process. We can help ease the way tremendously.
Make a plan. Chances are you will need immediate access to cash in order to pay expenses related to a parent’s passing. Since probate can be a lengthy process, depending upon the state in which you reside, you may want to plan for this eventuality by having parents establish a revocable living trust, which allows assets to pass outside probate.
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Document storage. Be sure your parents do NOT store their important documents in a bank safe deposit box because getting at them could require you to obtain a court order. Use a strongbox or safe that is kept in the home instead. Or make sure you are a signer (and there are back-ups besides you) on the safe deposit box.
If you would like to have a talk about estate planning for your family, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $500 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call our Haddonfield office today at 856-857-6007 and mention this article.
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