It’s a beautiful, sunny day as you head out to the garden with your grandfather. You’re happy to steal a few precious hours with him, and as the two of you settle in and work side by side, you think back to the long afternoons you used to spend at your grandparents’ house as a child. Your grandfather always told the best stories about the adventures he had growing up. Listening to him recount his memories was your favorite part of visiting with him.
As you help your grandfather tend his garden, you listen to him re-tell those favorite stories from his childhood. Then, the conversation turns to family matters. Uncle Joe is having a hard time financially. He had to close his business last year, and creditors are a worry. Your grandfather is thinking of making a Will, and wants to leave some money to Joe, but is concerned that the creditors will get it.
And then there’s your niece, Katie. She’s the only grandchild so far, and was born with developmental disabilities. Katie relies on Medicaid and SSI benefits to pay for her specialized medical care. Your grandfather wants to leave Katie a sizeable inheritance to make sure she has the best possible future.
While your grandfather talks, you think about your family, and about your grandfather’s great stories. You and your spouse have a knowledgeable, experienced estate planning attorney who walked you through putting together an estate plan last year. Part of that estate plan was a “My Legacy Workbook” to preserve your own family stories and important information. You know how much your family could benefit from holding on to your grandfather’s stories and memories.
You suggest to your grandfather that he meet with your estate planning attorney. He needs more than a Will if he’s going to accomplish all the thoughtful goals he has for his family.
First, he needs an estate plan that includes asset protection for Uncle Joe. This way, Joe’s inheritance can be kept away from any creditors.
Second, he needs help setting up a Special Needs Trust for Katie. Otherwise, any money left directly to her would make her ineligible for her Medicaid and SSI benefits. Instead of being used to improve Katie’s life, her inheritance would be used to pay for her basic medical care.
Third, he needs guidance on how to address any other estate planning issues, like updating beneficiaries or establishing an incapacity plan.
Finally, you tell him about the “My Legacy Workbook” and let him know how valuable you think his memories and stories are to the family.
This is a conversation that all of us should have with our parents and grandparents as they get older.
Of course, every family is different, and there’s no script for how the conversation should go. But having a gentle, respectful talk is the best way to make sure that your loved ones have an updated estate plan in place. This will give both you and them the peace of mind of knowing their wishes will be followed and their legacy will be carried on.