California estate planning is a critical component of an overall financial plan. Talking about estate planning can be a sensitive and difficult conversation with your parents. However, discussing the details can ensure that your parents’ plan best reflects their current wishes and needs.
Approaching the conversation
Many families either avoid discussing estate planning in California altogether or delay it until something happens to a parent. Nothing is certain in life, so talk to your parents sooner rather than later to ensure their plans play out as they intend. You might mention the importance of long-term planning, how it affects them and how it can also affect your plans. For example, they might need to use some of their assets for long-term care.
Having the conversation respectfully and non-confrontationally can help your parents feel they can speak freely. Increase the chance of a successful discussion by choosing a neutral, comfortable setting. However, if you feel the talk may trigger emotions or agitate your parents, include an estate planning attorney or a tax professional as a neutral third party to keep things calm.
Topics for discussion
You can have a more productive conversation if you come prepared with a list of estate plan questions to ask. These can include the following list as a starting point. Ask your parents if they have:
- Made any estate planning decisions or need help doing so
- Completed a will or trust
- Designated beneficiaries for all their assets
- Named a Power of Attorney (POA) for their health and financial affairs
- Discussed funeral and burial plans
- Crafted a succession plan for the family business (if applicable)
Revisit the conversation over time
Estate planning is best approached as an ongoing topic, with the family meeting periodically for updates rather than a “one-and-done.” Emphasize the importance of keeping the estate plan and beneficiaries current, as needs and circumstances change over time. Remarrying, additional children, divorces and other events can cause people’s wishes to change. Discussions should include all siblings so that no family members feel one person had “undue influence” on the parents regarding the division of assets.
Although discussing estate planning might be challenging, it can prepare your family and ensure your parents’ estate effectively carries out their final wishes.