It is hard to even think about the loss of a parent and is not a place our mind ever wants to wander. However, talking about things today with your family can mean avoiding significant headaches, frustrations, and stress down the road. This is especially true if you find yourself as the oldest daughter in your family.
As the oldest daughter, you have probably taken on a caretaker role for your siblings when they were younger, and perhaps your parents as they have aged. You are often approached for advice and guidance, and tasked with family responsibilities. It may come as no surprise that when parents have to name an Executor in their Will, they most often choose their oldest daughter.
If This is You, Ask Questions
The very first question to ask your parent(s) is “Do you have an estate plan?,” and, if so, “Who did you name as Executor/Personal Representative?” The first step in understanding the roles and responsibilities you may be tasked with after someone passes away is understanding the expectations they may have for you. Learning whether or not you are named as the Executor is a perfectly fair question to ask.
So You Are the Named Executor- Now What?
We understand that thinking about the future loss of a parent, nevermind talking about the potential loss of a parent, can be difficult. However, it is much better to have what often feels like an awkward conversation now, than be faced with several unknowns after your parent passes away. Here are three important questions you should ask your parent(s):
Where is the Original Will? Is it with an attorney? If so, who is the attorney? Is it stored in a safe/locked file cabinet/random drawer in their home? Knowing where you can access this important document is key and can save several hours and days of frustration in the long run.
Have they pre-paid/planned for funeral services? It is very important to understand what plans someone has made in advance. Learning that a person has pre-paid for a funeral is extremely important, so that not only can you carry out their wishes, but also so that you are not paying for something that has already been paid for previously.
Who are their trusted advisors? Do they have a lawyer, financial advisor, accountant, etc., that you should know about, or be introduced to? These trusted advisors can be very helpful during an estate administration. While we understand that many people like to keep details regarding their assets private during their lifetime, learning who the key stakeholders are now can certainly help you in the future.
If your parent(s) are open to a more detailed conversation about their estate plans, do not shy away. Learning as much as you can about their estate plan, accounts, investments, liabilities, etc., now, can save hundreds of hours of frustrations in the future.
There are also tools to help. At Trustate we created an estate prep tool, the Trustate Toolkit, that guides you through several questions to better understand an estate. Whether your parent(s) use the toolkit to help them navigate a difficult conversation, or if you use it on behalf of your parents, any and all information learned will be of value.
As a Trusted Professional, How Can You Help Your Clients?
As you have built relationships with your clients, I am sure you have come to learn about their families, and if you haven’t, there is no better time than now to start. If you know that your client is the oldest daughter in her family, or maybe just the sibling who is often looked upon to ‘take care of things’, it is worth having a conversation with them about roles and responsibilities they may have to take on in the event of a parent passing. Given that these conversations can be uncomfortable between parents and their children, your client may be more comfortable talking to you. They may ask you questions about things they should be thinking/doing now in order to make sure they are best equipped when the time comes. Encouraging your client to have a conversation with their parent(s), but knowing you are there for them to breakdown that conversation after the fact, is a great way to show your value and support to your client and their family.