Probate Lawyers Say Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning

Probate lawyers say it's important to talk to your parents about estate planning.
Probate lawyers say it’s important to talk to your parents about estate planning.

Probate lawyers often meet with adult children who are trying to settle their parents’ estates. Many times these children are surprised by their parents’ financial situation and the lack of estate planning that their parents have done. When little or no estate planning has been done, it can be expensive and time consuming to deal with all the unresolved issues that  result. That’s why probate lawyers strongly encourage adult children to talk to their aging parents about their finances, their feelings about health care decisions, and whether they have an estate plan in place. But this is easier said than done. How do you start a conversation that includes a discussion of a family member’s mortality?

Sometimes the way to ease into a conversation with aging parents about money and their estate plan, is to discuss your own. If you want to know about their will or estate plan, start by explaining your own estate plan, how you’ve decided to set up your estate and then ask what they’ve done for themselves.

The conversation may feel awkward the first time you start it, says the Daily Local News in the article “Ask your folks about their financial plans,” but you need to get to where everyone is comfortable having the conversation. Your parents’ plans might impact yours, and visa versa. So, it’s good to talk “early and often” not only about your parents’ estate plan, but how they are planning for the costs of retirement, including health care.

It’s important for aging parents to understand that, if something happens to them, their children are the most likely ones to step in and take charge. Your parents need to understand that the more you know in advance, the better equipped you’ll be to make sure that their wishes are followed.

A good opening is to talk about your plans to save for retirement. Ask your parents what they did, or do, about 401(k) contributions. This will give you insight into how well-prepared and knowledgeable they are about retirement savings. If you’re house hunting, that’s an excellent opportunity to get them talking about their furture plans for living arrangements. Do you need to buy a home with a possible “in-law” suite in mind? It’s not a bad question to ask. It shows that you are thinking about their future needs.

Probate lawyers have seen how untangling an estate when there’s no will and no advance planning has been done can tear a family apart. That’s the last thing you or your parents want. Talking openly with them about money, trusts, wills, life insurance and advance medical directives, will give you an idea of what they have or have not done to plan for the future. It may spur your parents on to move forward with their estate plan, if they have been procrastinating.

Even if you learn that they haven’t done any planning and don’t have a will, that is better than not knowing until it’s too late. If you learn that this is the case, you can start educating them about what will happen if they don’t meet with an estate planning attorney. You can offer to take them to meet your estate planning attorney or to give them a few names so that they can decide who they are most comfortable with. This could help them avoid some common estate planning mistakes.

Setting up your own estate plan is another opportunity to ask your parents what they did and what their thoughts are about your  estate plan. Their family may have never done any estate planning, and they might have more than a few family horror stories to share. In that case, you can help them change the family’s dynamic by encouraging them to take a different path.

Reference: Barchart (April 16, 2019) “Ask your folks about their financial plans”

Suggested Key Terms: 

Continue Reading

Scam Alert: Is It Real or a Robocall?

Robocallers target seniors with phone scams
Robocallers target seniors with phone scams.

AARP recently put out an alert to seniors with advice on how not to fall for robocall scams. Robocalls are a daily annoyance at best and, at worst, a way for criminals to wipe out your savings. Law enforcement officials working on catching these crooks face daunting challenges because telephone scammers are highly organized and operate out of many different countries. However, there are some key phrases and tactics these con artists use. This information can help you answer the question: Is it a robocall?

Experts advise people not to answer any phone call, if you do not recognize the number of the caller. This advice used to be more useful before the scammers found ways to hijack Caller ID and mask their calls, as coming from people or organizations you know or trust.

The scams tend to follow certain patterns, depending on the type of fraud the crooks are trying to perpetrate. Here are some examples:

Social Security Scam

You might get a phone call in which the caller tells you that someone has stolen your Social Security number and is using your number to commit crimes. This is a scam. The Social Security Administration notifies people of essential information by regular mail, not by calling people on the phone.

The caller will try to get you to give private information. Again, this is a scam. The Social Security Administration does not call people and ask for personal information.

These callers often threaten people that there is a warrant for their arrest and the only way to keep from getting arrested and thrown into jail, is to give them the personal information they want. Only con artists make these threats. The Social Security Administration does not call people and threaten to arrest them and throw them into jail.

For your peace of mind: if you get a call like this, hang up right away, then contact your local Social Security office to make sure that there are no issues with your Social Security number. If you make the call to the Social Security office yourself, you will know you are talking to the right people.

Jury Duty Scam

You get a phone call from someone pretending to work at the police department or sheriff’s office. The caller accuses you of missing jury duty and says that there is a warrant for your arrest. You must pay a fine to people who pretend to be the police.

This is a scam. Jury duty notifications are by mail, not by phone. Courts also do not telephone people to demand payments. Courts send notices of fines by mail. The police and sheriff’s department do not call people to collect fine payments.

If someone calls you with this scheme, hang up right away. For your peace of mind: Contact the jury administrator of your county, city or local federal courts to see if you missed jury duty.

These scam artists prey on your fear of getting arrested, even when you know you did nothing wrong. The fraudsters will bully, harass, and threaten you to try to steal your money. You cannot talk them out of what they are doing or get them to admit that they are committing a crime. Your best option is to hang up immediately, then contact the relevant legitimate government agency to verify that what the caller said was false.

References:

AARP. “How to Recognize a Robocall.” (accessed May 2, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/recognize-a-robocall.html

Suggested Key Terms: 

Continue Reading

Not a Little Black Book, but a Big Blue Estate Planning Binder

An estate planning binder would make it easier for an executor to sort through a deceased relative's financial information.
It’s overwhelming to sort through a deceased relative’s financial information.

Life happens, when we’re not prepared. A relative dies unexpectedly and you find out that the estate planning documents name you as the executor charged with the responsibility of taking care of probate and settling your relative’s estate. Where do you start gathering information?

One of the most considerate things we can do for our family is to have all of our important information in one place. That’s why, at Galligan & Manning, we give our clients what we call the “Big Blue Estate Planning Binder” that includes not only their estate planning documents, but other documents that will help in settling their affairs. Without this information, the result could be a mess for those you love.

The task of untangling someone’s financial responsibilities and their legal matters is emotionally and mentally draining, especially when they have not prepared any kind of plan to convey important information. It’s not just making the calls and explaining who you are and why you are calling but having to constantly be starting at the death certificate of someone you love. That’s why everyone should consider putting together an estate planning binder.

An estate planning binder is a place to keep names, numbers and important documents. Think of it as a reference book for your life that contains the information that loved ones will need in the event of a sudden death or illness.

You should tell the people you have named to handle your affairs about your estate planning binder and let them know where it is located. In addition to copies of your estate planning documents, this is what you should include in it:

Medical Information: Include surgeries, medications, recent test results, treatments and the name and contact information of healthcare providers.

Health Insurance Info: The name of the company, a copy of your health insurance card, your Medicare card and any recent bills.

Recurring Bills: Recent bills and contact information about your mortgage payments or rent, utilities, car lease or loan and life insurance policies. You should do the same for regular bills and for subscriptions, memberships.

Insurance Contacts: A list of all insurance agents, policy numbers and the agent’s contact information.

Investment Information: Your financial adviser’s contact information and account numbers.

Financial and Legal Information: Contact information for your estate planning attorney and your CPA. I t should include where your prior year’s tax records can be found. Make a copy of the front and back of your credit and bank cards. Include recent credit card bills and note when payments are generally due.

Pet Care: Contact info for the vet, any medication information and info for a trusted friend who can care for a pet on a short-term basis. A pet trust, if you have one.

Personal Lists: Who should be notified in the event of a serious illness or death? A list of names, phone numbers and email addresses will be invaluable.

A personal estate planning binder can be a great relief for children or friends, who are probably still in shock, and it gives them the ability to have the information they need right at their fingertips, without having to dig through files or drawers of paper. It’s a gift to those you love.

Learn more about probate and the duties of an executor at our website.

Reference: Considerable (April 19, 2019) “This is the most helpful thing you can do for the people who love you”

Suggested Key Terms: 

Continue Reading