Helping Your Parents Establish an Estate Plan


Depending on your parents, discussions regarding estate plans can be either easy or hard. Some people are lucky in that their parents may be at a stage of their life where they’re willing to accept some help and guidance from their adult children. Others may be resistant, which will likely make everything from gaining power of attorney to helping them find in-home assistance or a care facility difficult.

A common piece of advice, for those who aren’t sure exactly how to broach the topic with their parents, is to first consider your own plan. If anything, it’s at least a convenient excuse to begin thinking about and establishing your own estate plan. Beginning the conversation as a request for assistance may be an effective approach. You can try something along the lines of, “Hey Mom and Dad, I’ve been consulting with some attorneys about setting up a living trust for my family and was wondering how you approached your estate plan?” Starting with a request for advice is an innocent and inconspicuous way to find out if they have anything in place already and establish what, if anything, needs to be updated.

Creating a Checklist

There are several things an estate plan should accomplish. It should fundamentally list or contain all of their assets and liabilities and explicitly detail how they want their finances to be handled after they pass. Although that may sound simple, when you consider the complexities of modern finances and life in general, there’s likely a lot of details to gather.

The Basics of What You’ll Want to Get Together

List of Important Professional Contacts

This should include any accountants, attorneys, doctors, financial planners, advisors or anyone else involved in meeting your parent’s legal, financial and medical needs. These professionals may need to play an important role in the distribution of your parent’s estate or their medical care should they reach a point where they can no longer make medical, legal and financial decisions for themselves. Knowing who they are may be essential in order to execute the estate plan.

Comprehensive List of Their Assets, Debts and Account Credentials

Knowing your parent has a checking account at Lake Michigan Credit Union is a great first step, but gaining access and control over the account should the need arise is much easier when you also have the account number, PIN number and any other credentials necessary to access it. Keep this in mind when you’re compiling a comprehensive list of all their debts and assets. This is important not just to ensure assets don’t get forgotten, but also to ensure an accurate accounting can be made to determine appropriate estate taxes.

Make sure to keep track of all:

  • Retirement savings accounts, pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs or any other investments
  • Listed owners and beneficiaries of those accounts to ensure accuracy
  • Any relevant insurance information such as member ID numbers, policy numbers and the types of long-term care, annuities or life insurance plans they may possess
  • Medical information such as current medications, doctors, specialty practices they visit or anything that may be necessary should you at some time in the future need to get medical power of attorney

Some Other Helpful Tips

As previously mentioned, now that you’re thinking about your parent’s future it’s likely a perfect time to think about your own plan. Doing research and familiarizing yourself with the process may make things easier and ensure you don’t miss anything when it comes time to help your own parents.

If you have other adult siblings make sure to include them in the process as well. One of the most common points of acrimony in probate are siblings who feel slighted by other siblings making all the decisions without ever consulting the parent’s other children. Getting all the brothers and sisters to sign off or at least be involved can help minimize this risk.

Speaking with a lawyer can also help make the process a bit easier for some parents. You can even try scheduling a joint appointment. Maybe consider telling your parents, “I scheduled an appointment with an estate planning attorney to discuss options. Do you want to come and see if they have some ideas to help with your estate plan?” Sometimes hearing something from an expert in the field will resonate more than just your insistence that this is a necessary step that shouldn’t be put off.

Lastly, don’t try to accomplish everything in one dramatic push. You don’t want your parent to feel like you’re trying to get powers of attorney and their estate plan in order so you can push them off into an assisted living facility to live out the last of their days. Make sure to establish that this is for their own well-being and that they will rest easier knowing that far in the future, when the time comes, everything will be prepared.

Want to Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney in West Michigan?

Estate planning attorney David L. Carrier has built his practice on helping families in Grand Rapids, Norton Shores, Portage and greater Western Michigan develop airtight estate plans that enable them to sleep soundly at night knowing that regardless of what unexpected events tomorrow brings, their loved ones will be prepared. Whether you just want to schedule an appointment by yourself to find out which estate planning options may be best for yourself or your parents or you’d like to bring them in with you, our team would be happy to have an honest, transparent discussion. Contact us today at 616-361-8400 to schedule an appointment.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *