It may be difficult to think about your parents passing, so discussing their estate plan is often avoided. However, ensuring their wishes are met can provide peace of mind. Your parents’ last will and testament is just one document that dictates the distribution from an estate, but there are others such as revocable trusts, asset titling, beneficiary designations (people you designate to benefit from your estate) to consider, and more.
- Inventory their estate, making a list of assets: This list should include real estate, banking accounts (checking, savings, money markets, CDs, etc.), investment accounts, traditional and Roth IRAs, 401(k)s, or family businesses. Be sure that the titling of those assets syncs with their estate plan. Often, an estate plan is drafted but the titling of the assets may not pass under the will as intended. For example, items that pass by beneficiary designation will not likely pass under the terms of a will.
- Ensure their estate plan is up to date: Too often people put off updating their estate plan and when it is eventually reviewed it is not what they currently want. A will is the most common estate document that appoints an executor, the person who will be responsible for administering the deceased’s estate. The will also distributes the deceased’s probate estate, that is, the assets held in the deceased’s name alone or those that do not pass by beneficiary designation, such as life insurance or retirement accounts. Working with an estate planning attorney will help ensure a smooth transition of your parent’s wealth.
- Ensure beneficiaries are up to date: Some assets do not pass per an individual’s will. Life insurance, IRAs, and 401(k)s to name a few, pass per a beneficiary designation. Making sure that these beneficiary designations are up-to-date and align with your parents’ overall estate plan wishes is critical.
- Consider a living trust, power of attorney, health care directive, etc.: While a will is necessary to dispose of assets that are titled in the deceased’s name, a revocable living trust is useful to avoid probate, which is a legal review of wills, for assets titled to it. A will is only effective at death, but with a revocable living trust, a person funds the trust during their lifetime, and at their death, the trust passes the assets out per its terms. The trust is revocable during its lifetime and the assets titled avoid the probate process which can be costly. It is often best to have both a will and a revocable living trust as part of an estate plan.
- Additionally, consider having a power of attorney that permits one to appoint an agent who can make certain personal, financial, and medical decisions for them. A power of attorney is effective during a lifetime but ceases at death.
- Also, an advance directive for health care permits one to make end-of-life decisions in the event one becomes in a state of permanent unconsciousness.
- Consider a plan for assisted living or long-term care: According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, an estimated 70% of people currently turning 65 will need long-term care at some point for an average of three years. The average annual cost in Pennsylvania in 2021 was $133,882. A long-term care policy can help offset these costs. However, if purchasing a long-term care policy is not possible, work with an elder law attorney to help plan for long-term care such as Medicaid.
Assuming financial caregiving responsibilities is a serious role. At Bryn Mawr Trust, we can provide sound financial advice tailored to you and your loved one’s specific situation that supports your family’s needs.
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