Discussing Disability, Death and Inheritance Issues

Protect Your Assets: Question and Answer with Patricia M. Annino, Esquire

Question:  My parents are getting along in years. Lately I have noticed that my mother is beginning to forget things. I am concerned that they do not have their affairs in order. My goal is to make sure that they are taken care of and that what they have worked so hard to build is preserved. How can I start this discussion with them?


It is prudent to ask this question as the burden of making sure that your parents are cared for will, in all likelihood fall on you. The condition of their financial and legal affairs will impact your life directly. The probability is that you will be dealing with their health concerns and their financial and legal concerns. When put together this is a daunting task as I assume your life is already full with your own responsibilities. If their affairs are in order your tasks will be easier.

I also understand that is easier said than done. Bringing disability, death and inheritance into a discussion with elderly parents can be an emotional land mine for all of you. A good starting point is to talk about the mechanisms they should put in place to protect themselves and each other in the event of disability or incapacity. Make sure that they have updated health care proxies that name who will be in charge should they lose the capacity to make their own medical decisions.

It can also be useful to discuss the impact federal and state estate taxes will have on their affairs. Most elderly parents want the tax impact minimized and their assets to pass directly to their children. Sometimes it is helpful to leave them with copies of articles or books that discuss these issues in an impartial manner.

Depending on the family dynamics it may also be helpful for you to discuss this with your siblings and then have an inclusive family meeting where the issues are all put on the table and openly discussed. Once the topic is on the table and discussed, the absolute first step is to obtain a listing of their assets-including whose name each asset is in and the appropriate values.

That is a mandatory starting point to the planning process, avoiding probate, reducing administrative costs and reducing taxes.

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Patricia Annino is a nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  For more visit:  www.patriciaannino.com

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