Talking about financial affairs with your elderly parents can be awkward and stressful but is often a necessary step to make sure that their financial affairs are in order. In addition and of equal importance, discussing estate planning may be anxiety provoking but may be vital as many people ignore this important process. Taking a few minutes to talk with your parents about their finances and estate planning can give them a sense of what needs to be done. Once their financial affairs are reviewed and enhanced where appropriate and their estate plan and related documentation is completed, they and their family will have peace of mind.
The following are some ideas to think about but they do not represent all of the issues that should be considered. These are merely presented to trigger insight and action steps for families of elderly parents.
If someone dies without a will, then the laws of intestate succession determine how an estate is divided. If a person chooses not to do estate planning, then the state will impose its plan of distribution.
It is very common for people to have second and sometimes third or more marriages. The legal, tax and family complications can be very troublesome here and usually result in legal disputes tying up and squandering precious monetary and emotional capital. Without an estate plan, the second marriage couple is literally playing Russian Roulette with their families’ inheritances.
For example, if the spouses have joint property, when the first spouse dies, the surviving spouse becomes sole owner of such property. The surviving spouse is free to do whatever they want with the formerly joint property. The surviving spouse is not legally obligated to draft a will to provide for the step children. If the joint asset was previously owned by the first to die spouse, his or her children may be entitled to none of these assets.
Wills allow an appointment as to who will administer an estate and who will be alternate executors or executrices. Without a will, state law or a judge may have to make this decision. This is far more expensive than simply having a will drafted as part of a comprehensive estate plan.
So the point here is to make sure that your parents have valid, updated wills in place as well as other important estate planning tools such as trusts, living wills and durable powers of attorney (for health care), if applicable. Older documents may have provisions and fiduciaries that no longer make sense.
It’s also important that parents provide you with the physical location of such documents and a list of the professionals involved in their affairs, such as attorneys, accountants, investment advisers, etc.
Helping your parents organize their financial documents now can save a lot a headaches upon their death or incapacitation. Consider compiling a simple checklist that they can go through that specifies details (including physical location) about the following important details of their lives:
It is sometimes a good idea to provide copies of the checklist to a trusted family member and of course to the estate attorney.
Advances in the field of medicine are making us live longer, a fact that must be considered when determining how much money your parents will need to support themselves during their lifetime. While gifting your estate to your family members can be a valuable estate planning tool, it can be disastrous if not combined with a good retirement plan that takes into consideration an extended life span.
There have been numerous horror stories about unscrupulous financial advisers selling the elderly inappropriate investments. Helping parents in this area may be vital and essential.
Because older people sometimes fear talking about death, many of their last wishes go unfulfilled. Try to get them to discuss:
These topics can be brought up directly or indirectly in a typical conversation.
Because the details of a person’s estate plan are so personal, it may be difficult to ascertain how to broach the subject with your parents. This area must be approached with a great deal of finesse and sensitivity. Some parents do not feel comfortable talking with loved ones directly about there estate plan. Others have no problem at all. Experience has indicated that being open and transparent about these matters minimizes family problems when the estate is finally administered. Here are some gentle ways to open a dialog on the subject:
It’s possible that your parents may not associate estate planning directly with death if they see a relatively young person taking action to ensure the smooth transfer of his assets upon death. This may also give you the opportunity to refer them to your estates attorney if they have not yet developed a plan.
Invite a friend or associate over that is well-versed in financial matters. Listening to this person talk about the benefits of estate planning may be just the push your parents need to move into action on their own estate plan. If you have a good relationship with your estate or tax attorney, you could suggest that your parents call this attorney for a free phone consultant to explore some of these issues. Our office offers this free service as a courtesy to our clients. This education could be invaluable in moving parents to action.
If it appears that your concern for your parents’ financial well being is being misconstrued as an unusual level of interest in their assets, you may need to back off and approach the subject at a later date. Somehow you need to get your parents to understand your sincere concern for them and the whole family. You must be clear that your concerns are not self serving.
If you back off do not do so indefinitely. You may find that once you get around to it again, it may be too late.
You must be careful to include your siblings in this discussion. You never want to be in the position where they can claim that you exercised undue influence or duress over your parents. If you do go with parents to a meeting with an estates attorney great care is needed to insure that such attendance cannot be misconstrued and used against you at a later time. An experienced estates attorney will know how to safeguard against such exposures.
In any event, generally, keeping everyone involved is usually a good way to proceed.
For more insight into the estate planning process please read Estate Planning Mistakes: 5 Not So Easy Pieces.
Hiring Steven was quite possibly the best decision of my life! Steven took the time to hear every single one of my concerns and address them in an extremely clear, concise and thorough manner. He guided me through the notoriously complicated and stressful process of probate with the utmost of compassion and dedication. Thank you Steven!
I highly recommend Steven J. Fromm for all your estate and tax planning needs. He has the most complete and thorough knowledge of current as well as pending federal, state, and local tax codes of any professional that I have ever been involved with. His ability to totally sort out your current financial condition and relate it to a plan to minimize your tax liability and allow you to sleep at night is without equal. He is professional, timely, creative, and an advocate for your needs, whether its personal or business. You can be assured that you will be well taken care of, with cutting edge/ sound financial and tax advice by Steven J. Fromm.
I have always found Steve to be very responsive, accurate and creative in legal matters presented to him. He demonstrates a good business sense. We have collaborated on several highly technical issues over the years. I look forward to our continuing relationship.
Steven has been instrumental in helping my partner and I to create a secure and satisfying estate plan, which meets or exceeds all of our wishes and contains contingencies for everything from medical issues to wealth management and living wills. In this process, Steven has also become a friend. If you need Estate Planning, Tax Advice, a Will or a trust, etc., we highly recommend Steven Fromm, Esquire. He will listen and be sensitive to your unique situation.
Steve is an excellent attorney who has provided help for my family personally for business, tax, and other services for many years. He is extremely knowledgeable and thorough, and is extremely good at explaining legal concepts to me in clear terms understandable to a non-attorney. It is difficult to pick only three attributes above, since Steve’s work meets most if not all of the attributes above.
Steve is an excellent corporate attorney who has a deep understanding of corporate law, taxes and estate planning. He’s been extremely helpful to me in keeping my many companies and business ventures organized, focused and squeaky clean. He’s very strong in estate planning and wealth preservation as well. Finally, his follow through is air tight and utterly dependable.
Steven is a trusted adviser. We depend on him for so many things. He is patient, listens to our needs and makes excellent suggestions. He is extremely talented. We value his advice and have recommended him unhesitatingly to friends and family.
Steve Fromm is a superb lawyer and I highly recommend him! After a terrible experience with a previous lawyer concerning an estate administration, I entered his office feeling very deflated, confused and discouraged. However, I left his office feeling enthusiastic and eager to get down to business. My situation was very unique, I needed his expertise for an array of things and Steve was able to address all of my needs. With a limited timeframe and an extreme amount of obstacles to overcome he worked meticulously, diligently and accomplished extraordinary results. His professionalism is incomparable and I am forever grateful.
1420 Walnut Street Suite 300
Philadelphia, PA 19102
In order to help you more quickly, please
fill out the form and click “submit”.
A representative of the firm will call you shortly.
From their offices in Philadelphia, PA, the law firm of Steven J. Fromm & Associates, P.C. provides a full range of estate planning, probate and estate administration, tax, business and corporate legal services to clients throughout eastern Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley, the Lehigh Valley Area, the Five-County Area, Bucks County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Philadelphia County, Berks County, Lehigh County, Lancaster County, York County, Harrisburg, Norristown, Doylestown, Media, West Chester, Allentown, Lancaster, and Reading.