If your parents in Minnesota do not have an estate plan, they are far from alone. However, not having an estate plan could not only give rise to stress and conflict after a parent’s death but also cause problems while the person is still alive. If you do not know your parent’s health care preferences and your parent becomes incapacitated, it may be unclear what kind of decisions to make or even who should make those decisions. If your parents do have an estate plan, it can be helpful if you have an idea of their intentions. Therefore, it is generally a good idea to have a talk with them about the estate planning they have done or need to do.
How to have the talk
It can be difficult to discuss estate planning with your parents, but you can explain to them that without some conversations about their wishes and some documents to back up those conversations, you may not know their wishes or be able to carry them out. It is important that you do not pressure your parents and that you listen to what they want as opposed to trying to impose upon them your own ideas about what they should do.
The needed documents
Among the documents your parents may want to consider in case of incapacity are a living will, which outlines their preferences for end-of-life care, and powers of attorney that appoint someone to make financial and medical decisions for them. If they already have a will or a trust, you may want to ask them whether they have reviewed and updated it recently. They might have beneficiary designations for life insurance and retirement accounts, and these should also be updated if necessary.
It is best to start this conversation when your parents are still healthy and to remember that this is likely to be an ongoing discussion. You should also include or at least inform other family members to ensure transparency. An attorney may be able to help them determine what documents they need and prepare them correctly.