Getting started : Estate Planning with your parents

The death of our parents is not something any of us want to think about, let alone talk about. But, as Leah Chenoweth from Penderlaw’s Wills, Trusts and Probate department explains, facing up to these difficult conversations and beginning some Estate Planning with your parents now is likely to save you a lot of heartache and angst in the future, as well as money.

It’s good to talk (but not always easy)
Death is never an easy topic to speak about with people you love, probably least of all with your parents. We often shy away from it with some sort of obstinate head-in-the-sand childish belief that they are somehow immortal and that things will probably work out one way or another when the time comes. The prospect of discussing who gets what and even before that what happens if they need to go into a care home at some point, just gets harder and harder, the older your parents get.

Bitter experience
You wouldn’t have to look very far online to discover all sorts of heartrending examples of families torn apart by the result of a lack of Estate Planning. It really is worth taking the plunge, overcoming a totally understandable natural reluctance to tackle this sensitive subject, and having some conversations together whilst you can. It will almost certainly save much angst in the future.

What is Estate Planning and what do my parents need to do?
Estate Planning enables your parents to protect themselves, their assets and you. It is far more than just working out who gets what. It is about ensuring their personal and financial welfare as they get older from paying for care, should they need it to who will make medical and financial decisions on their behalf if this becomes necessary. Having an Estate Plan in place also means that your parents will pass on as much of their Estate as is possible to those they wish to receive it, minimising tax and knowing how it will be administered and by whom.

How on earth do I begin the conversation?
Money and health tend to be sensitive subjects and many older people prefer to keep these things to themselves. So, it may not be easy to coax them to talk about something which you both may find uncomfortable, but definitely worth it. Here are our tips on how to get the ball rolling.

1) The best time is now. It’s so easy to put off but the best time to have the conversation really is now. None of us know when we or our parents are going to die, it’s not something we get to choose but we can choose to face up to the reality and make the situation, when it inevitably does happen, a whole lot less traumatic.
2) Do it together. It’s important to get together with your siblings as well as your parents (even if it has to be via FaceTime or Zoom in these days of the pandemic) so no one feels left out and the decisions are made with all of you present.
3) Don’t spring it on them. These conversations often work best if you plan it so that they are not taken aback, and everyone can have the right information with them to be able to have the discussion. Perhaps a catalyst to set it up in the first place could be a recent news article on the subject or a more personal event, perhaps someone you know has passed away.
4) It’s for their peace of mind as well as yours. If you find it distasteful even bringing the subject up, a crucial point to emphasise is that the whole process is as much for their peace of mind as yours. It’s a chance for them to make sure they get what they want in their later years, especially with regard to care. Do they want to look at moving to a house which will be suitable when they have may have less mobility, somewhere nearer you or your siblings and grandchildren so they can visit more frequently, do they want to check out some care homes, should this become necessary in years to come? It is perhaps important to emphasise to them that facing up to all this now doesn’t make it a foregone conclusion that they will go into a care home, but at least they will have planned emotionally and financially for it, and be involved in the decision making process, should things pan out that way.
5) Give everyone a chance to say what they want. Perhaps this sounds a bit mercenary but giving everyone a chance to say what is special to them might be a helpful conversation. Quietly coveting a painting or clock perhaps is no good unless your parents know. They would probably far rather leave it to you, knowing that you really appreciate it, rather than just randomly sharing possessions equally amongst siblings.
6) Power of Attorney. Asking your parents to give you authority to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf should they lose mental capacity is one of the best things they can do to help you. This is called Power of Attorney (POA). If they haven’t done this and become incapacitated when they are older, you’ll find that it is both expensive and time consuming to get authority via the court of protection and without POA, you could find social workers or other health professionals making decisions for you because you do not have any legal authority.

So, what are the essentials to sort out when Estate Planning with your Parents?
1) Power of Attorney
2) Plan for care in later life
3) An up to date Will including appointment of an Executor who you can get on with
4) Knowledge of the various bank accounts. Pensions, life insurance policies
5) Knowledge of any digital accounts including social media accounts etc.

Once you have broken the ice and had this initial discussion, the next step is to speak to a solicitor to be able to formalise and record what you have discussed as well as arranging things like a Power of Attorney and an updated Will, should this be necessary.

Get in touch
Our experienced and friendly team at Penderlaw would be glad to be able to help and advise you. If you’d like to get in touch you can call us on 01872 241408 or email We can also arrange video calls via Zoom or Skype if you feel more comfortable having a discussion that way.