Natali Morris Blog

June 15, 2016

How To Talk To Your Parents About Their Will, Estate, And Financial Plans

“Hey Mom, let’s talk about your mortality!”

That is NOT how you should start this conversation but this is a conversation that we all should have with our parents if we are adult children. Ask yourself if you know the answers to the following questions:

  1. Do your parents have a will?
  2. Do your parents have a trust? (Very important distinction from #1!)
  3. Do your parents have assets that they are passing down to you?
  4. Are these assets tax protected or will they be subject to inheritance tax?
  5. Do you know who handles your parents’ money, assets, legal needs? Do you have these people’s contact information?
  6. Do you know how their assets will be divided between you and your siblings or other close friends and relatives
  7. Do your parents have debts that you will have to assume in the case of their passing?

If you don’t know these answers, you should! Your parents age and health is not relevant. We should all know these things at all times because, you know, the hypothetical hit-by-a-bus. Yes, it’s morbid but I don’t need to tell you how awful it would be to have to face these questions unprepared.

I recently started to think about this after reading the book Smart Mom, Rich Mom by Kimberly Palmer. The author has a chapter about estate planning and it got me to thinking. I do not know many answers to the above questions.

Every time my mom takes a trip, she reminds me that all of her important documents are in a specific box in a specific room so I would know where to start. But it would help to have a lawyer’s phone number and a copy of the trust. Also, I assume my sister and I are evenly represented in our inheritance but I do not know that for sure.

As for my father, since he is remarried, I should know how his current wife fits into his legacy. I know there is a prenuptial agreement, but I know nothing of the specifics. I squirmed enough in my seat when he told me about the agreement so I asked no questions. But I’m in 30s now and I think I could take it. No, I’m lying. I’ll still squirm with awkwardness. But I should still know.

Let me be clear: I don’t want my parents’ money. I want them alive and well and here with me so that my father can tell me how he thinks my husband will age better than me and my mother can tell me how she disagrees with my parenting. :\

I had a separate conversation with the both of them about this recently and it was well received. No one was offended or surprised. My mom sent me contacts within the hour because she is an organization junkie, which is where I get it from. My dad said that he would like to do more organization on this topic and will get to it.

This also got me thinking that they should have updated information about my family’s financial picture. My mother has a copy of our will but that is the extent of it.

I am going to have to think through the best way to organize all of this. Perhaps a Dropbox folder with a copy of our estate documents, a list of bank accounts, and contact information for lawyers and accountants. If I really wanted to go wild, I could also name instructions for social media legacy names. Did you know Facebook allows you to name someone that could manage your account in the event of your death or incapacitation? I’m not sure I’d care much about my Facebook wall in my final moments, but, well, you just never know.

How have you handled your parents’ or your own legacy documents? What are you missing that you need to know? Share if you feel comfortable!



6 responses to “How To Talk To Your Parents About Their Will, Estate, And Financial Plans”

  1. Chris says:

    Let’s say your parents don’t have either a will or trust (or have a very outdated will) and they want some of your support going through the process. Most reputable probate attorneys will be willing to have “educational” conversations with everyone in the room. But they will also INSIST on being alone with their client(s) while discussing and determining how things will be split up. And again once a will or trust is complete, with their client’s permission, they’ll discuss details with heirs.

    Then in the case of a trust, they (possibly with your support) will need to change bank accounts, deeds, etc to be properly held. It can be a lot of work, but it is worth it.

    • nmorris says:

      Oh good point! I’ve seen the consequences of elder fraud and the government takes this VERY seriously! If they suspect a whiff of someone taking advantage of elderly estate, it’s no joke! Jail even!

  2. RedwoodCitytoNJ says:

    I am fortunate that my parents are excellent planners. My sister is the trustee for my mother’s estate, and I am for my father’s estate (for tax reasons)

    The complexities making sure all the assets are appraised, and everything is accounted for when the day your loved one leaves this planet. Get to know the trustee, trust accountant, attorneys and have open communications between family members.

  3. Mike M says:

    Great post. This is a conversation that just gets kicked down the road but is very important!

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