Ideas to Help Aging Parents with Their Estate Plan This October

Estate planning is critical for elder seniors, but they often require assistance from their adult children, and who better to help than a loving family member? Put simply, estate planning involves the growth, conservation, and transfer of wealth from an individual to his or her family, or other designated beneficiaries, through a strategy that is best suited for the creator’s unique circumstances and desires. 

The first step for an adult child may be to determine whether his or her aging parent has an estate plan. If so, it may need updating to reflect changes in family composition, tax laws, health care choices, and other relevant items. If not, crafting a plan should be a top priority, as it is far more beneficial to protect a parent’s lifetime proceeds than to roll the dice in probate court after his or her passing. Either way, it is best to start as soon as possible.

Although each situation is different, it is critical to consider certain estate planning items including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Wills and Testaments
  • Trust Agreements
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Health Care Directives
  • Beneficiary Designations
  • Guardian Designations

These, and other estate documents, can vary according to need. For instance, a power of attorney allows for an adult child to act as an agent for his or her elder parent. The agreement could be tailored to only impact certain financial decisions, and include a “durability” provision allowing for the adult child to make decisions when his or her elder parent is mentally incompetent. 

It is generally recommended to revisit an existing plan periodically, and as noteworthy events transpire. If starting from scratch, begin by gathering information. What is the status of the aging parent’s home, taxes, Social Security income, investments, liabilities, insurance policies, and other important documents? 

Be sensitive when approaching these issues. Personal affairs are often shrouded in emotion, and probing these areas, even with the best intentions, can test even the closest parent-child relationships. Be prepared for a series of thoughtful conversations. With so much at stake, adult children of aging parents should not wait to gain the guidance and education they need on this important issue to ensure that all involved can achieve peace of mind.

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