Discussing an estate plan while parents are still competent can prevent disastrous consequences. Although it may be uncomfortable to have these types of conversations, reviewing an estate plan can help ensure everybody’s best interests are protected.

Comprehensive Estate Plan

A comprehensive estate plan provides provisions for the disability or death of the person making it. This includes financial decisions, the distribution of assets and medical decisions. An estate planning attorney can discuss what documents should be included for a particular individual, based on his circumstances and preferences. These documents may include:

Last will and testament – This document details who will receive the individual’s property upon his passing and which property each person will receive.

Power of attorney – This document allows the individual to appoint an agent to act on his behalf when conducting financial transactions.

Advance directive – This document lists the individual’s medical preferences regarding end-of-life treatment.

Healthcare power of attorney – This designation allows someone else to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual.

Trust – A trust names a trustee to carry out the individual’s wishes regarding his property, often allowing beneficiaries to receive money or assets when they are older.

Other documents may be necessary to create a comprehensive estate plan, depending on the individual circumstances.

Beginning the Conversation

Beginning the conversation regarding these important matters may be difficult. However, concerned adult children can help set the stage for the estate planning talk by requesting a special meeting with their parents to discuss these topics. This tactic helps the parents get in the mindset of thinking about the future. It is often best to have this conversation when the parents are healthy and have not suddenly been affected by an illness or other death in the family. Adult children should be sensitive when discussing these difficult topics. They may want to approach the subject by explaining that they are concerned about their health and want to know their wishes.

An effective estate plan should be based on what the parents want. By having a plan in place, adult children will know what their parents would want under the circumstances.

It is important for adult children to recommend discussing these issues with a qualified estate planning attorney who can help address the intricacies of individual situations.