For many people, the only thing more emotionally complicated than considering their own mortality is the thought of their parents' mortality. It's also common for the adult children of older parents to believe that their parents have everything well planned and under control. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.
Even extremely organized and cautious people often put off estate planning for a variety of reasons or may fail to create a thorough estate plan. Sometimes, it is discomfort with facing the inevitability of death that makes people want to avoid this process. Other times, it is a lack of understanding about what is truly necessary for a comprehensive estate plan in California.
While it may not be a pleasant discussion, talking with your parents about their estate planning wishes is a necessary conversation. You can review their wishes and help ensure they've committed them to legal documents.
A last will probably isn't enough
One of the most common estate planning mistakes is the assumption that all a person must do is create a last will that allocates their various assets to members of their family. The truth is that an estate plan is much more than just a last will.
It is also a way to provide a safety net in the event of medical incapacitation and a means of providing family members with guidance about important medical and funeral decisions. If your parents created a last will but not a comprehensive estate plan, you might want to talk to them about expanding their estate planning.
Creating a living will means making a power of attorney and describing medical preferences in an advance medical directive. Having your parents put their wishes in writing will make them easier to follow in the event of a sudden medical emergency.
Older estate plans may require a modern update
Families grow and change over time, but estate plans remain the same unless someone takes the time to change them. Another major oversight many people fall victim to with estate planning is the assumption that the process is over once they create a few documents.
However, family circumstances can change at any time with little warning. Those changed circumstances could necessitate updates to the last will or an expansion of the family's estate plan. For example, the death of a family member would mean they should no longer be a beneficiary. The birth of a child or their diagnosis with special needs could mean that you will need to restructure the estate plan to provide for that individual.
Whether you need to create a living will or update a last will with your parents, sitting down with an estate planning attorney can help you make the best decisions to protect your family's assets.