According to a 2019 survey carried out by Caring.com, 57% of adults in the United States have not prepared any estate planning documents such as a will or trust despite the fact that 76% viewed them as important. Many of the respondents said this was due to procrastination, but many others mistakenly believed that it was not necessary because they did not have many assets.
What key estate planning topics should you consider?
Do you have a last will and testament and/or a trust? If you do not have these important documents, state law will determine who will inherit your property — and it may not occur in the way you would have chosen. Spelling out your wishes in a will or trust will prevent unnecessary confusion, anxiety and expense for other family members.
Have the proper powers of attorney been prepared? A financial power of attorney will allow you to designate an individual to make financial and property decisions for you should you become unable to handle your own affairs.
Do you have a Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Living Will? These documents memorialize your wishes concerning your end-of-life care. It also lets you designate a person you trust to make medical decisions for you when you are otherwise unable to speak for yourself.
How should you encourage your family members to create an estate plan?
You should not only to take steps to make sure your own estate plan is in place, but also to talk to your family members about creating an estate plan. Here are a few tips to help you start the conversation.
Be sensitive to your family members’ feelings. Estate planning is often a difficult topic to broach, as it brings the unpleasant topics of aging and death to the forefront of our minds. One way to begin the conversation is to talk first about the need to plan for an illness and to provide instructions in the event they become too ill to communicate with doctors or handle financial matters for themselves. The conversation can then naturally progress to the importance of having an estate plan that will enable their assets to be transferred in the way that they wish and minimize any taxes, court costs and legal fees.
Involve other family members in the conversation. If you are planning to speak to your parents about the need for an estate plan, it is important to try to include any siblings in the discussion to avoid giving the impression that you are trying to influence or control your parents’ choices. You and your siblings should emphasize to your parents that none of you are asking about what you will inherit, but just want to make sure that their wishes are carried out if they become ill or pass away.