For your entire life, your parents have looked out for your best interests. Now it is your turn. As your relationship with your aging parents evolves into the role of caretaker, you should make sure that your parents have an estate plan that protects their interests and assets.

Having a conversation about your parents’ estate plan may be uncomfortable, but it will help you and your family to ensure that your parents’ final wishes are carried out. Talking about estate planning with your parents is perhaps one of the most important conversations you will have with them, and the earlier you discuss their estate plan the better.

In this blog, we cover what you should discuss with your parents to make sure they have an estate plan that protects their interests.

Do Your Parents Have A Written Will?

Do your parents have a valid will? If not, then your parent’s estate will be distributed by North Carolina’s intestacy laws. A valid will requires the person making the will to sign the will in front of two witnesses, and that the witnesses sign the will in front of the testator. In North Carolina, your parents could write their own will; however, it is strongly recommended that they consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure that the will protects their interests.

If your parents do have a written will, you should review the details of the will. How long ago was it drafted? Who is the named executor? Was the will created in another state? Have your parents purchased or sold property that should be reflected in the will? 

If your parents’ will needs a few minor updates, the will may be updated by way of a “codicil,” which is an amendment or addition to a will. However, if your parents’ will needs a major overhaul, they may want to revoke the will entirely and execute a new one.

Have Your Parents Created Advanced Directives

Talking to your parents about their estate plan shouldn’t end with discussing their will. It is equally as important to discuss their plans for advanced care in the event that they become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for themselves. 

Having this conversation while your parents are still healthy can help you plan for a variety of healthcare and financial related issues your parents may encounter as they age. By discussing the following “advanced directives” with your parents, you can plan for their end of life needs.

Living Will

A living will is an advanced directive that provides a plan for your family and healthcare team as you determine the type of medical treatment your parents wish to receive in the event they are unable to communicate their own wishes. This document essentially speaks for your parents in the event they are unable to speak for themselves.

Durable Power of Attorney

When your parents create a power of attorney, they designate a specific person to make decisions on their behalf. A power of attorney may be limited and created for a specific purpose, or they can be general and give the designated “attorney-in-fact” the power to make all of their decisions.

Your parents may also create a “durable” power of attorney, which would remain in effect in the event that they are unable to make decisions for themselves. If your parents do not have a durable power of attorney, it may be difficult for you to make decisions on their behalf without first establishing guardianship in court.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

Similarly, a durable power of attorney for healthcare gives the designated attorney-in-fact the power to make healthcare decisions for your parents when they are unable to make decisions for themselves.

Do You Know Where Everything Is Located?

Even if your parents have their estate plan in order, it is important to know where to find these documents in the event of their passing or incapacitation – especially if you or your siblings are expected to take on the roles of executor or attorney-in-fact.

The executor, for example, will need to gather your parents’ financial documents, pay your parents’ debts and distribute the remaining assets according to your parents’ written will.

As you discuss estate planning with your parents, you should collect the following information:

  • Account numbers and login information for bank and investment accounts.
  • The location of their will, powers of attorney and trusts.
  • Information regarding life insurance policies, pensions and Social Security claims.
  • Social Security cards and birth certificates.
  • Information on outstanding debts, recurring expenses and regular payments.
  • Contact information for financial, legal and healthcare professionals your parents used.

The goal is to collect everything that you would need to manage your parents’ estate and manage any financial or healthcare related decisions that they are unable to make for themselves. 

Questions? Contact A Wilmington Estate Planning Attorney

Ensuring that your parents have an up-to-date estate plan will help you avoid unnecessary challenges in caring for your parents and carrying out their final wishes. Though it may be uncomfortable, having this discussion while your parents are still healthy is important. If you are caring for an aging parent and have questions about estate planning, contact one of our estate planning attorneys at Rountree Losee today.