Aging Parents and Estate Planning

If you spent some time with your parents over the holidays and for the first time noticed a slight decline in their physical or mental health, it is probably time to begin important but difficult conversations—if you have not already. Specifically, you want to know if your parents have created a comprehensive estate plan that expresses their wishes and provides guidance when needed, either due to a temporary or ongoing incapacity or death. If you have siblings, encourage them to be a part of the process.

If your parents do have an estate plan in place, you might ask if you can still talk about it so you can ask any questions that come to mind so that you can honor their wishes. If your parents do not have an estate plan in place, these questions may help illustrate the importance of thinking about their wishes and getting them properly documented in a will or trust.

Here are several discussion topics. They are in question format to illustrate some of the things your parent(s) will need to think about. The whole conversation need not happen all at once, but here are some questions you may want to use to get the conversation going.

What do you want to happen if you become incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself?
Using a healthcare power of attorney, you can appoint someone to make your medical decisions while you are incapacitated. Using a financial power of attorney, you can appoint someone to manage your finances and make sure your bills get paid while you are incapacitated.

What are your thoughts on medical treatment?
Using a healthcare power of attorney, you can spell out your preferences for medical treatment and provide guidance on quality of life, what treatments you consider too invasive, and at what point—if any—you would not want to be resuscitated. You can share your ideas about palliative care versus treatment.

What do you want to happen when you pass away?
Do you have a funeral plot? If not, where would you like to be buried? Or do you prefer cremation or some other means? What should I do with your ashes?

Do you have a list of all your assets?
The first thing an estate planning attorney will need is a complete list of all your assets, as well as how they are titled. If you have a trust, is it fully and properly titled?

Do you want to donate any of your money to charity?
If you want to leave something to a favorite charity, you can designate this in your estate plan.

Do you want to consider a pet trust to provide for your pets?
A pet trust gives you the opportunity to provide pet care instructions, appoint a caretaker, and provide the necessary funds to ensure your pet’s care, through a conservator/trustee.

Have you stored any passwords that will be needed to access your online accounts?
Although processes exist for obtaining account access, it will be a lot easier to access your online accounts if the usernames and passwords are included in your estate plan. Some types of accounts will not give that information.

When you pass away, who do you want to help make sure your wishes are carried out?
In a will, you appoint an executor. In a trust, you appoint a trustee. In either case, the administrator you appoint uses the will or trust document to handle your estate the way you have directed.

Do you want help to find an estate planning attorney?
A referral from a family member, friend, or trusted professional can be a good place to start.

The most important thing is to get the conversation started while your parents are healthy. The answers are not as important as the process of understanding what information goes into estate planning, as well as all the situations an estate plan can help guide the family through. The conversation will be difficult for you, but it will be challenging for your parent(s) also. An estate planning attorney will not only draft the estate planning documents but can also help facilitate the conversation and ensure that all the relevant topics are covered and documented as needed.

Meet with an experienced Virginia Estate Planning Attorney
At Wilson Law PLC, we have helped many families through the estate planning process. It would be our honor to help yours. Contact Wilson Law PLC today at 866-603-5976 to set up a meeting or fill out our contact form and we will call you to schedule your meeting.