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How do I help my parents create an estate plan?

Millions of Americans' parents do not have a solid plan for how they want to live out their retirement years, or what to do with their estate when they pass. This is a dangerous place for everyone involved, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Regardless of the state of your parents' affairs, you can help them assemble a responsible, forward-looking estate plan that puts them first while taking pressure off of you. If you are going to help your parents get their affairs in order, you'll want to know the state of a few different things.

First and foremost, make sure that each parent has an updated will, and that you know where it is. Especially if both of your parents are still alive, and if they are beneficiaries in each other's will, it is essential to make sure that you know where these documents are, and what is in them. Once you've found them, you can start piecing together the rest of the puzzle to see if anything in them needs updating.

Next, you want to get a complete picture of your parents' assets and liabilities. What are their streams of income? Are they receiving any benefits, and how can these be maintained? What retirement funds or investments do they have, and where are they? Even if your parents are reticent to discuss specific numbers, you can work with ballpark figures. Likewise, what are their outstanding debts, and is there a plan to pay the off? Do they own their home, and is it paid off? Answering these questions will provide you with much of the information you need to help plan for the future. Similarly, you will want to discuss long term care wishes and long term care insurance. All of these choices are best discussed and decided before they become necessary.

Once you have gathered all the pieces, and made sure your parents' will reflect the most current state of affairs, you can craft an estate plan that honors your family and the way they wish to live. If you have any questions about how to go about crafting an excellent estate plan, the guidance of an experienced lawyer can help you navigate the process.

Source: Forbes, "Are You Your Parents' Retirement Plan?," Erin Lowry, accessed Sep. 28, 2016

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