During the holiday season, there are many events that we look forward to- trimming the tree, cooking with our family, and enjoying time with our loved ones over the exchanging of gifts. One exchange that your family could be avoiding, however, is the conversation that is most important: what will occur when one, or both, of your parents pass away.
Addressing the Elephant In The Room
In such a jovial season, we typically do not want something as sobering as the death of our parents looming over the festive occasion. This can be especially true when there is already underlying tension amongst the siblings and/ or tension between a particular sibling and their parents. An argument can erupt from over just about anything from life insurance payouts to who will get mom’s collection of cookbooks. But if you don’t address the elephant in the room, it’s only a matter of time before that elephant stampedes on everyone. As tough as it may be to hold an estate planning meeting with your parents, it is the most important thing that you can do to protect their legacy.
A common source of conflict is usually discussing the protection of assets. There may be a sibling who has leaned on the parents more than the others, there could be a sibling who is struggling with substance abuse, or a sibling who is suffering from a mental illness. There could be a long-standing sibling rivalry over favoritism. One sibling’s economic status may be disproportionate to their siblings leading to questions about if the money be granted and dispersed fairly? And what does fair mean to the parents vs. what it means to the siblings? What will happen if your parents loaned a sibling money- will they have to pay it back? And how will they pay it back to the estate?
When you fail to plan, you run the risk of your estate going through probate. Without an estate plan in place, the probate court will make the decision for you. This process determines who will control your estate, including how your debts will be paid, who will gain possession of your property, and who will inherit your money. Your parent’s dealings become public record- and nobody wants that – especially them.
Talk to an Attorney
Before you have “the talk” with your parents, it is best to consult with an experienced estate attorney. AT TGQ Law, our team will help walk you through the process. We will work with you to identify any underlying issues that you may encounter as a result of introducing the topic of estate planning. We will recommend best practices to introduce the topic and identify who should be involved. We’ll help you craft a plan and hold your hand through it- you won’t be going through it alone and neither will your parents.
The elephant in the room carries a lot of weight but what will weigh more- having the discussion or the chaos that it will leave behind if you don’t?