When you were young, your parents took care of everything for you. They provided for you financially and made sure all your needs were met. Even though you are older and independent now, you may still see your parents in that role. It can be shocking to realize that your parents now need your help.
Aging is challenging for many reasons. The aches and pains, loss of independence, and significant decisions, to name a few. One area that can be incredibly sensitive is that of finances and end of life plans. But no matter how tricky these topics are, it’s important that you don’t avoid them. As your parents near the end of their life, what steps can you take to help them get organized to transition their wealth?
1. Create A Team
This will be essential once you start getting into the nitty-gritty details of organizing their estate and communicating their wishes. Assemble a contact list of any professionals that your parents rely on. This will include financial advisors, lawyers, accountants, doctors, and possibly others. Make sure the information is up-to-date, and all those involved have access to these details. If your parents are comfortable with it, assign a family member to meet these professionals so that when the time comes to carry out plans, a relationship is already established.
Additionally, determine who will take on particular roles, such as executor of the will, trustee, and power of attorney. Designate a point person in the family to initiate the hard conversations and communicate details to all parties involved.
2. Gather Information
This is the point where the process can get overwhelming. You are organizing details that have been piling up for many years. Just follow these steps and find peace of mind that you have covered all the bases.
- Make a master list of all assets, account numbers and locations, user IDs and passwords. This includes insurance policies, retirement accounts, and even accounts pertaining to their property, such as utility bills.
- Check account registrations. How an account was set up often determines who controls the assets and how they will be treated when a death occurs.
- Review beneficiary designations to ensure they are current. Also, make sure they have contingent beneficiaries in case the primary beneficiary passes away before they do.
3. Consider Healthcare
As your parents reach the end of their life, this step cannot be ignored. It can be a difficult topic to discuss, but once the details are set in place, everyone will have peace of mind.
- Discuss their wishes regarding living arrangements and caregiving.
- Review their insurance policies to see what is available to them.
- Make an action plan in the case of illness, disability or death of one or both of your parents.
4. Organize Documents
A shocking 58% of people don’t know what their parents’ estate plans are, and even if they do, 44% don’t know how to access those plans. (1) Here is a list of the legal documents you will need to help your parents transition wealth and plan their estate.
- A Will. If they don’t have one, draw one up right away. Without a will, things can get messy. If a will has already been made, verify its location to make sure you have access to it. Check to see that the will is updated to reflect their current wishes.
- An Estate Plan. An estate plan lets your parents determine how much of their wealth goes to their family versus the government. A complete estate plan incorporates legal documents, tax planning, and financial planning. If an estate plan is not in place, your parents’ assets will be distributed according to state law, which may not be what they want.An estate plan will make things clear and help things go smoothly when the time comes.
- Power of Attorney. Have your parents choose who will make decisions on their behalf if they can’t do so on their own. They should have not only a financial power of attorney, but also a health care proxy, someone who has authority to make medical decisions for them.
- A Living Will or Advance Directive. These documents state an individual’s desire for end-of-life care and are essential when those difficult decisions arrive.
It’s no easy task to become a parent to your parent, but you can’t put a price on the peace of mind that will come with getting things in order. By initiating the heavy conversations, you will help avoid future family conflicts and emotional decision-making. Be sure to approach this topic gingerly, respecting your parents’ emotions and independence. If necessary, find a trusted individual outside of your family to facilitate the conversation and act as an unbiased voice. At DeLong & Brower, we prioritize financial confidence and complete financial organization. If you want help in planning your own estate or would like to discuss any of these steps in details, please contact us at 616-396-0500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joel Johnson, AIF® is an Investment Advisor Representative with DeLong & Brower, P. C., a Holland, Michigan accounting, retirement consulting, insurance, and financial services firm. He specializes in providing comprehensive wealth management and retirement plan consulting for individuals, families, retirees, and business owners. Along with more than 15 years of industry experience, Joel is an Accredited Investment Fiduciary® and a Chartered Federal Employee Benefit Consultant. To learn more, visit www.cpaholland.com.