Q: My siblings and I can’t seem to find a collective time to meet with our parents to encourage preparation of an estate plan such as a will or trust. Individually, each of us has tried to influence our parents to protect their assets and themselves, now in their 80s. Their answer is always the same, “it is our intention to look into it right away,” and then they do nothing. Even though my siblings and I all have prepared estate planning of our own, we’re unable to convince our parents of the importance of end-of-life estate planning. They have a home, cars, retirement accounts and other substantial assets. What suggestions are there for children to inspire their parents to finally take action to protect their assets, themselves, and, God forbid, avoid probate?
A: You’ve answered your own question. You and your siblings should collectively sit down with your parents to convince them of the importance of preparing documents that pass their assets to beneficiaries at life’s end. It is an emotional subject for anyone to discuss how to ‘Let Go’ of life. Rarely, if ever, is there a convenient opportunity throughout the year to have such discussions with your parents. So, when is a good time to gather for such discussions? Holidays, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, are often a good time since the family is normally gathered.
In the Charles Dicken’s classic, The Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Present told Ebenezer Scrooge that “There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you’re not here anymore.”
What makes Holidays an opportune time for discussions about family health issues and asset protection? Most people are less pressured by daily work routines, family members can come together, and most importantly, your parents, you, your spouse, and your siblings can comfortably open a discussion over a glass of eggnog and a turkey leg or while opening gifts.
So how do you influence parents to feel comfortable talking about health and asset protection? Remember, the discussion is about your parents’ estate planning which includes their health, assets, family, loved ones, not-so-loved ones, gifts, feuds, drama and more. It’s about their day-to-day living and legacy, not simply about their demise. Start the discussion anywhere. Talk about probate and how not to allow attorneys and courts to determine distribution of family fortunes. The holidays are meant to be a joyous time for family and friends to share intimate and loving concerns for one another and to celebrate the coming New Year. Once you have shared eggnog, turkey, gifts and champagne with family, think about beginning the new year by setting up a consultation with an estate planning attorney to discuss how to help safeguard your parents’ future. Remind them, “Remember, Mom and Dad, time is short, and suddenly, you’re not here anymore.”