Really Talking to Your Parents

Posted on August 17, 2011

Talking to parents can be very difficult.  In fact, it can be more difficult to have a deep conversation if you’re really close to your parents, because frequent communication and closeness means that important subjects often get placed on the back burner, and patterns of communication take the place of authentic talks built from the ground up.  It takes effort to cut through normalcy and initiate difficult conversations, but it’s something that has to be done.

Not Wanting to Think About the End of It All

A few months ago the New York Times ran an article about an attorney in Seattle who had never even thought about forming an estate plan until the issue was forced upon him by life circumstances.  At that point, the decision to formulate a plan involved a great deal of input from the attorney’s daughter—a woman who would certainly be influenced by the plan.  The moral of the story is that it’s incredibly easy to fail to plan . . . even for attorneys who are trained and understand the importance of establishing a comprehensive plan.

Reasons to Broach the Subject of Estate Planning

So far in 2011, at least ten states are investigating the non-payment of life insurance proceeds by some of the largest insurers in the country.  Several states (including Florida and California) have even held public hearings on the issue.  This leads to an obvious question: How can insurance companies get away without paying the proceeds of life insurance policies?  The answer is simply that many beneficiaries don’t know they’re beneficiaries and, therefore, don’t demand payment from the insurance companies.  This is one reason why you need to know (i) if your parents have an estate plan, and (ii) what that plan looks like.  Your parents worked hard to pay premiums and create real wealth.  It would be a shame for that wealth to go somewhere other than where your parents intend it.

If that’s not enough, it is very, very sad to think that more than $32 billion of unclaimed property is currently held by state treasurers.  The property consists largely of cash held in bank accounts, and sooner or later, it’s likely that the cash will end up belonging to the state.  You don’t want that to happen to your property, nor do your parents.

The Essential (but often forgotten) Documents

Estate planning attorneys often talk about the importance of wills and revocable living trusts.  I’m no exception to that rule.  Those documents are critical.  What’s often overlooked, however, is discussion of “letters of instruction.”  A letter of instruction provides the executor of an estate with critical information.  A letter of instruction will ensure that the executor has the names and contact information of attorneys, accountants, and financial advisors.  While wills should be stored in safe places such as safety deposit boxes, a letter of instruction should be more readily accessible, particularly if it contains instructions on funeral arrangements.  A letter of instruction makes sure that wills and revocable trusts are found, and it goes a long way toward making sure that wishes are fulfilled.

Essentially, a letter of instruction is one last chance for your parents to tell you what to do!

Getting the Plan in Place

Your parents worked hard to acquire their assets, and they should be made aware of the consequences of failing to plan adequately.  It’s not a matter of selfishness on your part to mention estate planning to them.  Rather, it’s a matter of doing what must be done . . . as a family.  You and your parents want to know that their life’s work will benefit your family first and foremost.

Call me today to schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session.  A Family Wealth Planning Session normally runs $750, but this month I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this blog post to have a complete planning session with me at no charge.  Call today and mention this article.  I’ll help you get the ball rolling.

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