Guiding an Elderly Parent through Estate Planning
Although death is the one thing life guarantees, it doesn’t make speaking about it any easier. Many people avoid having this difficult conversation with their parents. They prefer to put it off into some unknown time in the future. However, suppose a parent passes without any legal plan in place. In that case, their children may face challenging situations as they try to navigate their parent’s financial and health care needs.
Having an estate plan can prevent many issues that a family will face once their parents are gone. Written direction can lessen fights between other siblings who might otherwise argue about what their parents’ wishes would have been. Also, having all the necessary documents in place can alleviate the grief, stress, and sadness associated with losing a loved one.
This article will guide you on how to help an elderly parent through estate planning.
- Have the Conversation
When discussing estate planning with your elderly parents, it’s best to include other siblings and family members. Having other people there will show that you are being transparent and doing what is in your parents’ best interests. This can also avoid future family disputes.
During the initial stages of estate planning conversations with your elderly parents, it’s important not to pressure them. You should point out the benefits of speaking about end-of-life decisions and financial and medical care so that the family can honor their wishes. It’s also advisable to keep detailed notes of the conversations.
- Determine Your Parents’ Estate Planning Goals
Helping your elderly parents define their goals is essential. Generally, some estate planning goals can include:
- How will their money and property pass to loved ones?
- Do they want to avoid probate court? This will slow down the process of financially supporting family members after a passing.
- Do they want to keep their assets out of the public eye?
- How can they avoid additional legal fees and reduce overall taxes?
- What medical preferences do your elderly parents have? What if they are incapacitated?
- Who do they prefer to be responsible for distributing their assets after their passing?
- Do they want to gift anything to charities after their passing?
- Do they have specific funeral arrangements?
- Do they have specific health care arrangements?
Going through some of these questions can assist you and your elderly parents with their goals. It can also start the conversation about how their wishes can be honored when they pass.
- Record Your Parents’ Assets and Debts
Take inventory by documenting your elderly parents’ assets. This will give everyone a better idea of what needs to be addressed. For example, the list should contain any money, property, 401k’s or other retirement accounts, investments, vehicles, etc. Their list of assets should also be compared to a list of debts. This includes anything that is still owed. Debts must be paid before any assets are distributed to beneficiaries. . Once debts and expenses are paid from your parents’ estate, the remaining amount, sometimes referred to as the “residual estate,” will be distributed to the desired beneficiaries.
Having a big picture about the size of the estate, net of any debts and expenses, will accurately allow your parents to make estate planning decisions.
- Select Beneficiaries
A beneficiary is a person or multiple persons to which your parents wish to leave their money or property. Determining the beneficiaries is one of the most critical steps in estate planning. It’s the one that sometimes invites conflict and strife among family members. Beneficiaries typically include surviving spouses, children, grandchildren, but it can also include charitable organizations too.
In addition to choosing the beneficiaries, your parents can dictate how the assets will be received when the beneficiary will receive them.
- Select a Successor Trustee or Personal Representative
Choosing the right successor trustee or personal representative is another critical step in estate planning because this person will be in charge of administering and distributing the estate assets. A successor trustee or a personal representative is someone your parents can pick to execute their estate once they pass. Your parents should pick someone they trust because that person will be responsible for honoring their wishes once they die.
One important thing to understand is the difference between a Trust and a Last Will and Testament. If your parents choose to implement a Trust, the person managing their assets is known as a Successor Trustee. If your parents decide to make a Last Will and Testament in lieu of a trust, the person executing the estate is called an Executor or Personal Representative.
- Understand Some of the Differences Between a Trust and a Last Will and Testament
If your parents’ wishes are manifested only in a Last Will and Testament, their assets must go through a lengthy and costly probate court process. In Nevada, the probate process is a court-supervised process to prove the Will valid, distribute assets accordingly, and settle the affairs of a deceased’s estate. Generally speaking, Nevada requires probate when a person has an estate with assets of more than $25,000, or owns real estate. The $25,000 threshold increases to $100,000 if the person claiming the property is a surviving spouse. On the other hand, if your parents’ estate plan includes a properly funded Trust, the probate process may be avoided altogether. Speaking to an attorney about how to sidestep the court process of probate through a Trust can be extremely helpful.
Consult with an attorney
Having an experienced Las Vegas estate planning attorney involved can help you understand and discuss your family’s options. Also, having a neutral party assist with estate planning avoids making costly mistakes. It can also help mitigate any potential family disputes. Our trust and estate attorneys at Lee Kiefer & Park understand the ins and outs of the process. You can schedule a free, confidential consultation or call us at 702-333-1711.
Attorney Kennedy Lee practices in all aspects of trust and estate law. He views all legal issues from multiple angles (e.g. from litigation to administration point of view) to provide a higher quality of service to our client.