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Helping elderly parents with estate-planning needs is a true gift

If you are the adult child of elderly parents, one of the greatest gifts that you can give to them this holiday season is to make sure that they have all the necessary estate planning documents in place. While these conversations can be difficult to initiate, you do no one a favor by leaving it unaddressed.

Plan your discussion beforehand

If you want to have the most success, it's important to do your homework first. Take the time to learn which estate-planning documents your parents will need. Below are three of the most basic that will help them get started.

  • Wills - Everyone should have a will, so make sure that both of your parents draft their own. Many women of that generation typically left all the financial decisions to their husbands. But with no guarantee which spouse will predecease the other, two wills are needed.
  • Health care directive/Living will - The two documents are similar and can easily be combined into one legal document that addresses all of their health care needs. Living wills detail the types of life-sustaining medical care people prefer to receive once they are incapable of making those decisions. Perhaps even more importantly, a health care directive names the person who will make those decisions for them. Often, it's better to name an adult son or daughter than to select one's spouse. He or she may be too traumatized by grief to act on their intentions.
  • Powers of Attorney - These legal documents allow your designated representative to make legal decisions for you and handle your affairs when you're no longer physically or mentally able to do so yourself. Both of your parents should each draw one up.

While it may be second nature for your parents to name one another as power of attorney, as with the health care directive, another trusted adult might be a wiser choice. There are a few good reasons for that. Consider the following scenarios:

  • Not all people are able to put aside their emotions during crises and make the most strategic decisions. Often the closer the relationship between the two, the more difficult it is to make hard decisions.
  • Spouses who are close in age may both suffer from infirmities that can disable them and leave neither with the capacity to keep up with finances and other matters.
  • Since spouses typically travel together, both could be disabled and/or incapacitated in the same tragic incident, leaving no one at the helm of their decision-making process.

Discussing these matters with your parents is just the first step. You can also assist them in gathering more pertinent legal and financial information from reputable professionals in the Redlands area.

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