Compliments of Sterling & Tucker, LLP
By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
Your parents were watching over you, smiling and encouraging, as you took your first tentative steps. As a teenager, they handed you the keys as you took the car out on your own for the first time. They were there with guidance and advice, sometimes requested and sometimes not, as you left childhood and navigated young adulthood.
Now that your parents are entering their twilight years, they are the ones taking the unsteady steps, and you wonder if it might be time to suggest gently that they relinquish their car keys. You question how best to help them while at the same time preserving their dignity and maintaining their independence. How you’ll go about this will depend on your parents’ exact circumstances, including their health and financial means, and the involvement of family members and other loved ones. Regardless of the details, though, planning ahead is key.
If your parents are of substantial financial means, estate taxes may be a concern. Planning far in advance will be necessary to minimize, or even eliminate, the impact that taxes will have on their estate. Even if estate taxes are not a concern, planning is still essential. A properly implemented estate plan that includes incapacity planning can help ease the transition as your parents become less independent. In the event of an illness like Alzheimer’s, or a debilitating event such as a stroke, having a plan that provides some protection in case of their disability is often the difference between order and chaos.
A Living Trust can serve as the cornerstone of your parents’ estate plan. Your parents can place their assets in the trust and retain full authority to manage and control the assets as long as they’re well enough to do so. Once they become unable to care for themselves, the successor trustee they select may take over management of the trust assets. The successor can serve as trustee along with your parents, gradually taking on more responsibility until it’s time for the successor trustee to take the reins completely. One of the advantages of a Living Trust is its flexibility. It can be arranged to meet the specific needs of your family, and is adaptable to allow for a gradual transition of responsibility or to accommodate an emergency situation.
Your parents have always been with you to share life’s joys and navigate life’s challenges. In the same way, you can be your parents’ foundation, helping them negotiate their twilight years with confidence and dignity.
An attorney experienced in the areas of estate planning can help you and your parents anticipate future needs and put plans in place well in advance. This way, your parents can look to the coming years with the assurance that, no matter what lies ahead, they’ll be in your capable hands.