As the parents of adult children move further into their middle age and senior years, even if they’re fully cognitive and relatively healthy, stubbornness can be an issue when it comes to addressing pressing legal matters. It can seem to many adult children like the only way to get their aging parents to do something that needs to be done is to do it for them or at least lead them through it.
Unfortunately, if the “something” in question is estate planning, there are limits to how much an adult child can do to encourage making this effort. An individual’s estate plan – even a simple will – must be based on the wishes of the creator. If you’re concerned about your parents’ affairs, know that getting too involved in a parent’s estate planning can lead you into “undue influence” territory. If you have siblings or other relatives who expect to receive something, you could end up in litigation if they’re unsatisfied with their inheritance if you’ve become too involved in your parents’ estate planning processes.
If you’re the one closest to your parent and spend the most time helping them, they may choose to leave you a greater share of their estate than your siblings. That’s their right. However, if you’re also the one encouraging them to put an estate plan in place, that can cause suspicion even if the concerns of others are unfounded.
So how can you get your parent to create an estate plan while avoiding even the appearance of undue influence? It’s best if they can choose their own estate planning professional and make the initial appointment themselves. If you have to do even that much for them, then you need to step aside after that. If they are benefitting from experienced legal guidance, you’re less likely to cross the line and get more involved than you should.
Encourage communication with the family
It’s best to let your siblings and other interested parties know what you are (and aren’t) doing to encourage your parent(s) to develop their estate plan. This way, they’ll have no reason to believe you did anything behind their backs. It’s also best if your parent(s) talks to the family together about things that involve them. This can include whom they’re choosing as their executor and why and how they’re dividing their assets. This can prevent surprises, which are almost always one of the reasons that probate contests are initiated.
This effort can also help everyone to see that your parent is fully competent to make their own decisions. Nonetheless, it may be helpful to still get a doctor’s attestation to that fact. And, it bears repeating that, if your parent seeks experienced legal guidance, this can help you and your loved ones to avoid legal battles after they’re gone.