Estate planning for parents is a touchy subject. As an adult child, the last thing you want to do is talk to your parents about things like making a will. And it's likely not a conversation they want to have with you either. People don't want to talk about their deaths or the death of a loved one — but the reality is it's inevitable for all of us.
This fact is something I learned when two of my best friends suddenly lost their fathers within months of one another. After seeing what my close friends went through because their fathers lacked estate plans, I knew I needed to have a critical conversation with my own parents.
Preparing for "The Talk"
Fortunately for me, my parents are pretty down to earth and grounded — so we can talk about tough topics. And I had those two close friends, who were like family, who each lost a father within months of one another. My friends' fathers were also around the same age as my parents, so my parents knew it was time to have "the talk."
As immigrants, my parents also experienced what a lack of estate planning was like for their own parents. My grandparents just didn't know how the process worked in the U.S. My father, in particular, was in a predicament with his own mother after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and he realized he knew nothing about her estate planning.
While these were terrible circumstances, I do believe it made my parents more open to talking about the estate planning process. They did not want their children to go through what they'd experienced. They also didn't want to leave us with a financial burden upon their passing.
But that doesn't mean it was an easy conversation — or that they were ready to take action right away. That's where I had to step in. While my parents were open to the process of estate planning, I still had to take some initiative as their child. Otherwise, they may have procrastinated.
Estate planning is a tough topic. I had to be emotionally stable, and take steps to help make things easier for them.
Putting an Estate Plan Into Action
As soon as my parents agreed to start planning their estate, I took matters into my own hands and started looking for attorneys. Because my old job was near a law firm, I became friends with people who worked there. I was fortunate to have a place where I could start asking some questions. At the very least, they could refer me to other attorneys and point me in the right direction.
Once I had a list of attorneys, I presented them to my mother. At that point, I made sure we discussed a deadline for hiring an attorney to help my parents with the process. I made them put it on the calendar — and reminded them every day.
This timeline was my way of holding them accountable, and it worked. Within a couple of months, they had completed most of their estate planning.
My parents own two houses, which they want to leave to me and my brother when they pass. When it came to estate planning, this required us to find a title company to complete some paperwork to ensure my brother and I would be owners of the properties upon our parents' passing.
My parents procrastinated on this part more than any other. Life got in the way — and caring for my grandmother took priority — so I took over. I found the title company, got the required information from my parents, filled out the paperwork and got them to sign it. I became a sort of liaison between my parents and the title company.
Sharing Financial Obligations
My parents paid the attorney for their own estate planning, but I took over paying the title company for their services. The reasoning was simple: The more I could take off their hands, the more I knew it would get done. I also felt like it was partially my responsibility as their child.
After all, estate planning wasn't just for my parents — it's for their loved ones too. This is why I helped them pay for the process. And because I took over working with the title company and paid for it, the entire process was completed within a few weeks.
Several months later, my mother thanked me for my help. Between caring for my grandmother and other financial obligations, it would have taken them much longer, and it had seemed like a strain to her. By having me take over, they were able to maintain more peace of mind about the whole thing.
Now that my parents have completed their estate planning, we all have a sense of security. My brother and I know what needs to be done when they pass. We know where all the important documents are, where the money is and what's been paid for ahead of time. My parents also know they're leaving us in good hands.