An article recently published on the Marketwatch website observes that no one really wants to talk about death. However, the reality is that “physical death is inevitable, for everyone.” Once a death occurs, the natural emotional stress and grieving that accompanies a family member’s passing is coupled with the added strain of having to begin the task of making decisions. Family and friends have to be notified, funeral arrangements made and death certificates ordered. Often short-term financial issues need immediate attention. While no estate plan can possibly alleviate the grieving and stress, it can make dealing with the administrative issues of handling a decedent’s estate a lot smoother.
Those in Massachusetts who have elderly parents are rightly concerned about whether their parents have an estate plan in place which is as comprehensive as possible in order to ensure a smooth estate administration. Unfortunately, financial matters and estate planning often tend to be among the most sensitive topics one can broach with elderly parents. Forbes magazine notes that many senior citizens have an attitude of secrecy about their financial situation and how they want their assets disposed of when they pass. Children who sense that their parents might be reluctant to discuss estate planning often tend to procrastinate in bringing up the subject for fear of unnecessarily antagonizing their parents.
The CBS News website suggests some questions which should be posed to one’s parents in order to insure that their intentions as to the disposition of their assets are carried out. First, you need to ask if they have a will and, if so, where the will is kept and who was named as executor. If there is no will, you should advise that one be prepared. If a will is several years old, you should suggest that it be reviewed in order to insure that it still reflects their wishes as to the disposition of their assets. Second, you should ask if they have an advance medical directive in place together with a power of attorney in the event of incapacity. Third, you should inquire if they have updated their designated beneficiaries on insurance policies and pensions. Fourth, ask them where their insurance papers and financial documents are kept.
Hold a meeting
One way to go about bringing up the topic of estate planning is to convene an informal family meeting. Kiplinger magazine advises that you need to keep in mind that one goal is to avoid starting a conversation that ends in a shouting match, in tears or in stony silence. In an attempt to break the ice, you could begin by sharing information about your own financial and estate planning preparations. One conversation starter is to talk about a health or financial emergency experienced by someone they know. Above all, your parents need to feel that they are still in control and you are not trying to usurp them. Upon broaching the topic of estate planning, begin by acknowledging that the assets they worked hard for are theirs and not yours. Stress that your goal is to help them carry out their wishes. Keep the conversation focused on your parents’ desires, needs and goals.
Seek legal help
If you have elderly parents who have not engaged in estate planning, you should suggest that they contact a Massachusetts attorney experienced in handling estate planning. The attorney can discuss your parents’ objectives and goals and come up with a suitable estate plan to carry out their intentions.
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