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Helping your parents manage their estate plan

As your parents grow older, they will probably need some help handling their estate plan sooner or later. Whether they created an estate plan some time ago or have not created one at all and need help to avoid financial disaster, your assistance may have an enormous impact on their ongoing quality of life.

If you find yourself taking the reigns of your parents' estate plan for any reason, you must navigate a number of complex systems very carefully to keep your rights secure and ensure that your parents' best interests remain protected.

Your parents' existing plans

Before you can determine how to best serve your parents' needs, you must identify what, if any, estate planning documents your parents have in place already. For instance, you would not probably choose to focus on establishing a complex trust to protect assets from probate if your parents do not yet have wills.

Once you gather the documentation they have on their estate, you may also need to take stock of their finances, depending on their needs. Depending not their own ability or inability to maintain their affairs, you may need to consider estate planning to help them make the most of government assistance opportunities.

What does the estate need?

Depending on the size of your parents' estate, several different kinds of planning tools might prove useful. In cases where parents have moderate resources, it is wise to consider how to reduce the legal value of the estate so that they may qualify for government subsidies, especially if they require long-term medical assistance or medications.

Some parents have complex estates that require more complex planning to protect. If your parents have not created an estate plan, or have one that is old and out of date, you may need to help them look back over their existing documents to get a strong handle on how to preserve their wishes. If they have significant debts, or want their assets secure for a specific purpose, then they may benefit from a well-built trust to protect their assets from creditors and ensure that their beneficiaries have clarity of how the property gets dispersed when the time comes.

Encourage clear communication

When it comes to your parents' finances, you face a difficult task, navigating the practical and emotional pitfalls that inevitably arise. Whatever you face, it is always wise to encourage clear, intentional communication with all parties involved. This is especially important if you are one of several children, to avoid future conflicts that may tear family relationships apart needlessly. As you work through the host of potential conflicts and roadblocks you may face while carrying this great responsibility, be sure that you have all the guidance and clarity you need to keep your parents' best interests protected.

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