If you are in the State of New Jersey and would like to discuss your estate plan, our team at Willis Law Group LLC is here to provide you with any assistance that you may need. We are pleased to now also offer Snap Estate Plan services, where you can acquire Attorney-Drafted Estate Plans from the comfort of your own home. To schedule a virtual consultation with us, give our main office a call at (877) 296-2575.
Talking to loved ones about their eventual passing can be a difficult and often emotional topic, but it is essential that every family has the conversation.
According to a 2017 survey, less than half of Americans have a will. When a loved one passes away intestate – meaning without a will – it could have emotional and financial implications for the surviving family members. Following are eight tips that can help families navigate the difficult conversation about a will.
- Plan What You Can
Before discussing estate planning with loved ones, make sure you are properly prepared for the conversation. Make a list of topics and questions and then let your loved ones know what you want to talk about with them.
If possible, set a time and date and choose a private venue where everyone will feel comfortable. Be aware that you may need to schedule a few get-togethers as there could be too much to cover in one sitting. Remember to use language that is respectful and supportive, and to take a breather if emotions run high or the stress becomes overwhelming.
- Identify Key People
There are several key people you may need to contact for estate planning purposes. Ask your parents for the names and contact details for their:
- Financial planner and/or accountant
- Insurance brokers
- Minister of religion
- Closest friends
- Address the Topic of a Will
Determine whether there is an existing will in place and whether the document is up to date. If a will was created more than five years ago, check to see if they would consider reviewing it to ensure it is a true reflection of their wishes. Establish where they keep the document and confirm who they have appointed as the executors. The same goes for any trust that may have been created.
- Talk About Power of Attorney
Find out whether your parents have appointed someone to manage their financial affairs if they become incapacitated. If they have not given someone power of attorney, suggest they consider doing so.
- Discuss End-of-Life Wishes
Even though the subject may be uncomfortable to talk about, you should discuss your parents’ end-of-life wishes with them. Their estate plan will be incomplete without these directives, so it is important to include them. The form those directives take depend on the state in which you live, and they may include:
- The appointment of a health care proxy who can make medical decisions for your parents if they become incapable of making those decisions themselves.
- A medical or advance directive that explains what sort of care they would like and whether life support should be used to keep them alive or not. These directives can be included in the document that appoints the health care proxy. The directive must refer to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when naming the proxy.
- A living will contains instructions about the withdrawal or termination of life support under specific conditions, such as your parents becoming terminally ill, becoming comatose, or entering a vegetative state.
- Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), which provides more explicit directives regarding the type of treatment your parents would or would not want to receive.
- Ask About Insurance Policies
Talk about the type of insurance policies that in place. These can include:
- Health insurance – Medicare or private
- Life insurance
- Home insurance
- Long-term care insurance
- Disability insurance
If you have not already done so, take note of the names and contact details of the insurance brokers. Check where the policy documents are kept, and if possible, make certified copies of them.
- Request Access to Tax Returns
It can be helpful to know where tax return paperwork is stored. While these documents may not be necessary after death, they could be required if the estate becomes complicated. Confirm where you can find these documents and if they are all up to date.
- Discuss All Other Practicalities
In addition to subjects such as power of attorney and insurance, there are several other practicalities you should include in your conversations.
- Make a list of their accounts – financial accounts such as bank and mutual fund, credit accounts and store accounts.
- Confirm whether or not they are registered organ donors, or if they would consider donating their organs.
- Talk about the memorial service they want and whether they want to be buried, cremated or some other option.
Estate planning conversations are tough, no matter how you tackle them. Try your best to be patient with your loved ones while also being transparent with other family members about what you are doing. If you have relatives who are also affected by the potential passing of a loved one, invite them to be a part of the conversation as well.
Accept that these talks can take quite a bit of time. The smaller details are critical and should not be rushed. Lastly, always consult an attorney to confirm any legal ramifications of the points mentioned above. When dealing with these difficult conversations, our team at Willis Law Group LLC is here to help you make them as comfortable as possible. If you are in the State of New Jersey and need to have a conversation about wills or estate planning, call us anytime at (877) 296-2575.