Do You Know Where Your Parents’ Will or Trust Is?

QuestionmanIf the answer to that question is, ‘N0!’ you are in good company. A recent survey by Caring.com of 1,000 adults found that less than half of the adults surveyed (45.8%) knew where their parents’ documents were.

When asked if they even knew whether or not their parents had an estate plan in place, only about half (55.4%) said that they did.

When asked if they knew the contents of their parents’ estate plans, only 42% said that they knew what was in those plans.

And the survey wasn’t polling college-aged kids (who I would forgive for not being clear on these issues). Twenty-nine percent (29%) of those aged 50-64 didn’t know where their parents documents were stored, and of adults aged 65 and up, that number fell to twenty-three (23%).

Clearly, there’s not a sufficient amount of clear communication going on, or there’s a whole lot of denial, or both.  My guess is that these dismal figures are a result of reticence on both sides of the generational divide: adult children may not want to discuss estate planning with their aging parents and aging parents may want to protect their privacy.

At the end of every signing meeting that we have with our clients, we ask them to tell us where they plan to store their estate plan and we keep that information in their file, just in case we get the “where did Mom keep her trust?” phone call. So, that’s a start.

But of course, that is no substitute for a family discussion. Here are some suggestions for making that chat as non-threatening as possible:

  1. Consider starting the conversation by sharing the fact that you’ve recently put an estate plan in place (if that’s true), and that it’s made you want to know if your parents have done the same. It’s a lot less threatening to discuss planning in the context of what you’ve done than in badgering them about what they haven’t done.
  2. Focus on taking care of your parents in an emergency. Ask them if they have a Durable Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive. If they do, ask them if the Agent that they’ve named has a copy and if not, offer to help them make copies so that the Agents can have copies. It may be hard to acknowledge the inevitability of death, but anyone can slip and fall.
  3. If they are open to it, ask them if they have an estate plan. You don’t need to know what’s in it. That can, and often should, be kept private until the time comes. But knowing that they have made a plan and knowing where that plan is, is a reasonable question.  After all, an estate plan will do them no good if it isn’t found.