Planning for peace of mind: talking personal affairs with parents
Arguments between family members, misplaced papers or frantic attempts at getting affairs in order when faced with an emergency.
This is exactly what can happen if adult children and their parents don’t talk openly with one another about wills and estate planning.
That’s why it’s so important to have a conversation with your parents well before you need to. It’s important that you both plan for peace of mind so that you can ensure your parents’ wishes are fulfilled, and that they clear about your plans for the future.
In fact, you might find that both you and your parents are far less prepared than you thought. Currently, fewer than 50% of people have a will organised, which means that the state or territory in which they live can decide who benefits from their estate once they pass away.
What’s more, even if both of you have started to think about planning for when you’re gone, it’s likely you have decades worth of papers and documents stored in various places. Do you think either of you would know how to access all the right information if needed?
Starting the conversation
Broaching the topic of what will happen to assets and estates once someone is gone can seem like a big task, but by discussing it together you can share ideas and encourage each other to start getting organised.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking your parents about their existing plans, try asking about their general health and wellbeing first. Naturally, these types of questions might open up a bigger conversation about their personal affairs, which can help you to lead the discussion towards helping with their legacy planning.
Start by asking how they’re feeling about living at home. Are they comfortable? Are they managing to look after themselves, or do they think they might need a bit of extra help here and there? What about getting on with their day-to-day activities? Are they finding it easy to do things on their own, or do they struggle to remember things like appointments, or where they put things?
Having this discussion might also get you thinking about what you might do if you ever found yourself in a similar situation to your parents.
What does ‘personal affairs’ include?
‘Personal affairs’ is such a broad term, and it can include any number of legal and financial documents. Everyone’s situation is unique, and everyone’s plans and decisions will differ slightly.
It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed or anxious about the thought of getting everything in order. But there are ways to work through this.
LifeBank is one such system that can assist you and your parents with gathering all the right information in one safe place, ensuring that loved ones, lawyers and doctors know exactly where to go if and when the time comes.
LifeBank also contains suggested categories of private information, which you can use to help guide the conversation while ensuring both parties are covering all of the essential topics.
Some key topics you should both discuss include:
Nominating a Trusted Person (or Persons) / executor for the estate
Creating Wills, advanced care plans, living wills and powers of attorney
Investment and financial information, such as trusts, superannuation, pensions and shares, or prepaid funerals
Real and personal estate details
Health and medical history
Business information, such as loans, assets and succession plans
And while it’s crucial to capture all of this legal, medical and financial information, you can also use LifeBank to store yours and your parents’ sentimental information, such as family trees, photos, histories and milestones, so that a lifetime of your family's knowledge and memories are kept safe for future generations.
No one wants to consider the possibility of your family contesting your final wishes, but this can easily happen if the right safeguards aren’t in place to ensure that your money goes exactly where you intend, and your wishes are clearly laid out.
While having a will is a good first step, sometimes that isn’t enough. A valid will that lays out your wishes is built on solid legal advice, so always make sure you enlist the services of a lawyer when you and your parents are creating yours. Wills can easily be deemed invalid if the right measures are not taken, so make sure you keep it up-to-date and set yourself reminders to review it every couple of years.
Additional measures include nominating an enduring power of attorney, which is an attorney you nominate to make personal, legal and financial decisions on your behalf should you ever be in a position where you’re unable to do so.
Your appointed attorney may be responsible for matters like determining where you live, the selling of your assets, or paying your bills. For these reasons, it’s so important to choose someone who you can trust to act in your best interests.
Many people when planning their estate also choose to prepare an advance healthcare directive, or a living will. This legal document sets out how you would like to be cared for if you’re ever unable to communicate your wishes for treatment.
Keeping the information safe
Centralising all this important information with a system like LifeBank is one of the best ways to ensure that both yours and your parents’ wishes will be fulfilled, and that you will be as prepared as possible in case of an emergency.
As a secure place to upload and store offline documents, files, and any other important information, LifeBank can act as a central repository for the decades of paper-based information that you might have built up over the years. Plus, it’s simple to keep adding to the system.
Planning for peace of mind
By having an open discussion sooner rather than later, and by formalising all decisions in a secure place, you can provide your parents and family with peace of mind for when the time comes.