Important Estate Planning Conversations You Should Have with Your Parents

By Jenny Ling, Esq.

In these uncertain times, our office has seen an increase in inquiries regarding estate planning, especially from our older friends, neighbors, and clients.  Estate Planning is not just having a set of documents, it is a holistic plan that includes ensuring that one has a trusted person or trusted people in place to help with both medical and financial management and decision making.  If your parents are thinking about putting an estate plan in place, or if your parents have already created or obtained estate planning documents, here are some important topics of conversation that you should discuss with parents, especially if you are the person in the family who will be tasked with taking care of it all.

 

Medical

Regardless of your parents’ current medical condition, here are some discussions that you should have with your parents:

  1. What are the names of doctors they are currently seeing?
  2. What conditions do they have?
  3. Are they currently taking medication and if so at what dosage?
  4. Which doctor prescribes it and which pharmacy do they go to? 
  5. Do you know how long they would want to be life support, if at all, should they be diagnosed as terminally ill or permanently unconscious?

An Advance Health Care Directive also known as a Living Will will give family direction and ease the decisions regarding end of life issues.  Having a Health Care Powers of Attorney will give direction as to who should be making healthcare decisions in the event a parent is unable to.

 

Hospital

At this time there are a limited number of people who will be allowed to enter into a hospital, if at all to visit a patient who is ill. Having a way to communicate will be key.

  1. Do they have a cell phone?
  2. Be sure that phones and charges are labeled with tape.
  3. Can the nurses help with getting the phone on wifi?

Because travel may continue to be restricted, via phone on Facetime or Duo may be the only way for out-of-state family members to say goodbye.

 

Finances

It is important to have finances well organized. If your parents are not organized, now is to time have the conversation to help them. Get organized and get everything on a spreadsheet with account numbers.

  1. Where do they bank at?
  2. What mortgage company do they use?
  3. What are their regular bills?
  4. Are bills set up on auto-pay or are some bills still pay by mail? And even if things are on auto-pay, banks can still make a mistake!
  5. Do they have a financial advisor who knows where accounts are at?
  6. Do they have a safety deposit box, and if so, where at and where are the keys?
  7. Is there a safe at home with important documentation?
  8. What health insurance do they have? Do they have long term care?

If your parents have not already executed a Durable Power of Attorney, it is important they get this done so you can help them manage their finances.

 

Final Resting Place

Discussion about death can be uncomfortable, but it is important to know what wishes a person may have.

  1. Do you know what your parents’ wishes are?
  2. Have they prepaid for a burial plot or cremation services?  If so, where is that documentation?
  3. Do they want to be composted or shot into space?
  4. Do they have any particular wishes for a funeral or memorial?
  5. Are they connected with a local religious institution such as a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque that would perform any religious rites?
  6. Is there a charity they want to have contributions made to in lieu of flowers or gifts?

If your parents know this information ahead of time, they can make their wishes known through a Final Disposition Authorization and Instruction document.

 

Passwords for Accounts

We keep and do many things online now: email, banking, social media, cloud storage, and online photo galleries to name a few.  Family photos will no longer get lost on a Kodak roll (for those of us who know what that is!!), but rather in the internet or inaccessible computer if you are unable to access the them.

  1. Do they have passwords written down anywhere?
  2. Do you know how to access their computer or iPad?
  3. Do you know the password to their phone? 

The accounts, user IDs and passwords should also be kept on a spreadsheet. And if the spreadsheet is password protected, be sure you have the password to that as well.

 

Jenny Ling is a partner at the Law Offices of Jenny Ling, PLLC.  She focuses her practices on estate planning, business succession planning, business and bankruptcy.  

 

 

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