Seniors who do not have wills or other estate documents in place may not fully understand that if they die without having a will, their family will face burdensome expenses and possibly loss of control of their estate.
Having “the talk” with parents about their will or their wishes if they should become incapacitated is never easy. When they don’t have a will because they don’t want to provide information about their assets, or because they don’t feel that they need one, adult children can face a tough challenge.
Education is key, says NJ 101.5 in “Talking to your parents about a will.” Some parents fail to realize the consequences of not having a will—like if you don’t have a will, you lose the right to choose who will serve as executor (the person in charge of the estate).
In the absence of a will, the “administrator” appointed by the court needs to be bonded, which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. With a will, you can have a clause that waives the bond requirement. One great reason for Mom and Dad to have a will right there!
A place for information on this topic is your area’s probate court, typically located in the county seat. Plus, many good introductory brochures can be found online on their website. This information might be enough to convince your parents how important it is to have wills.
Another possible concern with some parents is that of keeping their personal and financial matters private. If so, they can create trusts to dispose of their assets. Remember that a will is a public document. While most wills don’t have specific asset information, the will itself is open to the public, and anyone can obtain a copy. A trust is always private unless there is a court action involving the trust. The trust agreement isn’t automatically a public record, even in that case.
If your parents create a trust with the help of a qualified trust attorney, and they transfer their assets to a trust during their lifetime, the trust controls what happens to those assets upon their incapacity and death.
Your best bet is to start by discussing their objections to having a will. Next, speak with an estate planning attorney about these objections and how they can be addressed. Not doing anything will lead to financial and emotional stresses on the family. Once parents can be made to understand the impact of their decision, and that their concerns are being respected and solved they may be more open to getting this done.
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