A few weeks ago my mother called to tell me she and my father had gone shopping for headstones and she was pleased to report that they had found something both nice and within their budget. Most children would probably be horrified at the prospect of their parents shopping around for a final resting place. I however, am okay with it because my parents and I have had “THE TALK”.
On more than one occasion, I’ve had clients walk through my door after losing a parent and didn’t have the faintest idea where documents were located or what their parent’s wishes had been. I also see my fair share of clients who spend time and money preparing a well thought out estate plan complete with Trusts and asset protection, but who failed to sit down and tell their children what they were doing and why. Confused and grieving, their children are unable to follow through with their parents’ wishes and lost in paperwork that they don’t understand. As for all the hard work by their parents, it was for naught.
This is where that important discussion comes in. I’ve come to call this conversation “THE TALK” as it’s something that every parent needs to sit down and discuss with their children. Sure, it may be uncomfortable, it may be awkward, but at the end of the day, knowledge is power and your children will walk away prepared and confident.
What “THE TALK” needs to include:
Trusts and Wills – Have you set up a Trust or do you have a valid Will in place? Where is the original located?
Healthcare and Financial Power of Attorney Documents – Have you prepared these documents in the event of your incapacity? Who have you chosen to stand in as your agent? Do your agents understand your wishes?
Expenses and Income – It’s important to give your children an idea of where you stand financially. Will you need assistance if your health fails you? Can you assure them that you are financially set? If your kids need help, is it important they understand that you are not in a position to step in?
Trustees and Executors- Will your kids be surprised to find that they have been named the trustee in a Trust you’ve set up or executor of your Will? Will they be able to handle the duties associated with this title?
Assets and Investments – Are you rolling investments into a Trust? If so, has your Trust been properly funded or will your assets and investments have to go through the expense of probate to fund the Trust? If you have a Will, do your investments have designated beneficiaries or will they roll into your estate at the time of probate?
Living Wills – Have your prepared this document so that your kids will not have to make this decision down the road?
Kinds and Types Insurance Coverage – What types of coverage do you have? If something happens to one parent, will the other parent be taken care of by an insurance policy? Is there a long term care policy at play?
You should also consider how your children will be able to implement everything you’ve set into motion. Having spent the time and money to create an estate plan is great, but having a plan your children can follow is divine. When clients leave my office they have in hand not only paper and digital copies of all their documents, but I also give them a 14 step action plan for their loved ones to follow in the event of death or emergency. If anyone has experienced the blind panic of great stress, you know the value of having a plan that allows you to move through steps without having to think too hard. Your kids will also need to know where any bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment paperwork, or safety deposit boxes are located. Knowledge is power!
If the idea of having “THE TALK” leaves you breaking out in a cold sweat, consider bringing your children to the office of your financial planner or estate planning attorney where these professionals can help explain what you have in place and how the kids will be involved in the future of your care and well-being. Although “THE TALK” isn’t easy, it will help you prevent conflict between your children as they will know your wishes and go forward with the information they need.
Lisa Sharp is an attorney with the Quraishi Law Firm located in Frisco and Dallas, where she practices Estate Planning. You can reach her for comments or questions at (972) 292-7675 or Lisa@QuraishiLaw.com.