Do your parents have a will? Is it up-to-date? How do you even ask?

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This article is reprinted with permission NextAvenue.org,

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My mom told me several times over the years that she had a will, and I believed her. When he died, we learned that his will was 40 years old – and completely useless.

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To start, he had never signed the copy we got, and the man named the executor had died a decade earlier. Grandchildren born after writing a will were not mentioned, and items left to some people were passed on to others long ago.

Such problems are not uncommon, as many older adults and their children do not want to talk about death. Of course, you can ask your parents or other people about their wishes, but how do you ensure that the transition after their death is smooth, not harsh or greedy?

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My mother’s husband has two children. What happens to my inheritance if my mother dies first? Will my stepfather’s family inherit money from his property?

Who needs a will?

“The question on many people’s minds is what happens if my parents die without a will? The short answer is, it depends,” says Rebecca Goldfarb, estate planning and elder law attorney, and director of Tarzana, California. Co-founder of Goldfarb & Luu, a law firm in the U.S.

“If you die with very little assets and you only have one child, you may not need a will,” she adds. “But what if you have more assets or more children? You will have to bite the bullet and have a tough conversation and possibly hire a lawyer to help.”

While it may sound unpleasant, she adds, “these conversations can bring you closer to each other in the end.”

David R. York, a certified public accountant and managing partner at York, Howell & Gaimon Law Firm in Salt Lake City, says it’s important for everyone to have an estate plan, especially as we age. And it is essential that everyone must have at least one will.

See: My father allegedly left me $1 in his will at my stepmother’s insistence. Is it true that I cannot get anything from his property?

what can a will do

He recommends that loved ones be reminded of these points if they are appropriate for their individual situations:

A will is an important first step in ensuring that a relationship is recognized prior to the death of a loved one, so that the remaining partner can exercise his or her right to property or benefits. If you die without a will or living trust — a situation known as intestate succession — your assets may be distributed according to rules set forth in state law, which varies from state to state And what you choose can vary greatly.

ReadingWhat can the death of Queen Elizabeth teach the rest of us about estate planning?

Are their wishes up-to-date?

When asked if a will has been made and is in place, some older adults will say that they are ready but in reality they are not ready at all. They may have a will that is out of date and no longer relevant to their current situation or they may not have signed or filed their wills and other important papers.

Clarifying the will status of older adults is important for a smooth transition of property and should be addressed when they are of sound mind and clearly able to make their own decisions about their estate.

“It’s always a conversation that needs to be approached with great care,” says Luciano Grubicich, medical director of Family First, a caregiver benefits manager in Boston, and director of a Latino clinic in that city’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Is.”

While you need to prepare wills, trusts, financial statements and other documents for the transition of assets, you should prepare yourself for very difficult conversations with your loved one.

“With someone who is active and healthy, you can approach this topic more freely,” Grubicich says. “Ask if they have a will, want to have one, or what their wishes are after they die. You can also state that these steps are to secure their inheritance and protect their assets from estate taxes and lengthy procedures. are necessary for [their death],

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face mortality

Before approaching the subject of a will, you need to consider that the loved one may be secure and resistant to talking about it.

“No one likes to think about their death or to talk about what will happen when they die, especially if they are sick,” says Grubisch. “Once you understand that you can approach the topic by acknowledging that this will be a difficult conversation and that they are in charge of when to continue or stop, it can help keep the conversation going more smoothly.” can help.

“It may take several conversations,” he adds, “but once the conversation is established you can offer to be the point person to make all the changes necessary to ensure a smooth transition.”

discuss the will respectfully

Grubicich offers some tips for approaching the topic with your loved one:

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get legal aid

It is wise to have a lawyer involved in any legal process. Offer to arrange or personally provide transportation for your parents to and from the attorney’s office. Such cases can be the most difficult part of the process for older adults with limited mobility. Take matters calmly, be open minded and offer solutions to the issues that come up.

“I encourage you to find your favorite lawyer — yes, friendly, helpful, and smart lawyers do exist — who will teach you what you need for your specific family,” says Goldfarb. “Find someone who focuses their practice on estate planning, not the five other areas of law.”

“Make sure they value a lifelong relationship and don’t see it as a one-time transaction with filling out blank forms,” ​​she adds. “These documents should be amended as circumstances and laws change. The attorney must also be thorough, plan comprehensively and manage a lot of estate plans so that they can share their 20/20 past information with you in their planning. you deserve the best.”

My family’s journey through the process continues. We were able to solve some problems along the way, and we continue to make progress with others.

We have all decided to leave our children to deal with the same issue when we eventually die. Making their own will, along with ensuring other legal instructions, can put their mind at ease and allow them to move on quickly and with good memories.

Rosie Wolf Williams is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in USA Weekend, Woman’s Day, AARP The Magazine, and elsewhere.

This article is reprinted with permission NextAvenue.org© 2022 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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