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Have your parents covered all the issues in their estate plan?

When you were younger, your parents probably had to have difficult conversations with you and did their best to push you toward making responsible decisions. Now that you are older and your parents have aged, you may find yourself supporting your parents and teaching them.

This role reversal can sometimes prove to be awkward, especially if you have to talk to your parents about something you find difficult, such as estate planning. Considering your own mortality is difficult enough, but trying to talk to your parents about when they die can be a very uncomfortable conversation. However, it is a necessary and important one.

Even if your parents created a last will years ago, it's important for you and the rest of the family to know what estate planning steps your parents have taken. In some cases, you may be able to guide your parents toward creating a more comprehensive estate plan that offers them more protections.

Many older estate plans eventually need updating

The estate plan your parents created when they first got married or had children may not really address the concerns that affect their lives now. For example, guardianship of their children is no longer an issue. The people they named in their will may no longer be close friends or even alive.

On the other hand, they likely have more significant assets to distribute, as well as the potential need for long-term care in the future. Revisiting a last will to correct, update and expand it is an important step to take when your family or life circumstances change.

You also want to encourage your parents to create documents that protect them where they are in life now, such as power of attorney documents that authorize you or someone else to handle medical and financial decisions. Advance medical directives that outline their wishes for care as they age can prove invaluable to your parents and to you in the future. They may also need to consider whether a trust is a good idea if they think they may need residential nursing home care later on.

Talking to your parents now is better than leaving things undone

If you don't talk with your parents and ensure that they have taken steps to address every major issue in an estate plan, you may be the one that has to handle the mess that results. You want their wishes followed, and they deserve peace of mind in their golden years.

Encouraging your parents to consider their needs in their later years as well as their legacy helps them prepare for the future and ensure that you have legal authority and proper guidance to execute their wishes.

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