Perhaps it’s a touchy subject.  Talking to your parents about their estate planning isn’t easy, but after they die, you’re the one most likely to be responsible for taking care of matters.  If everything is not in order it’s going to be 10x more expensive and more stressful in the long run.

Typically, mom and dad think they have it all taken care of.  They had some estate planning done several years ago and then put the documents up on some shelf where they gathered dust and they haven’t looked at them since.  Unfortunately, this is a recipe for disaster and you and your family may be in for quite a surprise should there be a death or incapacity.

Here are 3 steps that you can take now to make sure that your parents’ estate plan really does do what they want it to do and make sure your family isn’t going to be faced with thousands of dollars in legal expenses, taxes and needless complication.

1.  Review Legal Title to All Assets.

If your parents assets are not properly titled, it could cost you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Title to the family home and other assets are often not properly titled and therefore do not accomplish the family’s estate planning goals.  This also means reviewing beneficiary designations on retirement plans and life insurance.  You could be facing an expensive, time-consuming and stressful process called probate.  Probate is totally avoidable by ensuring that ALL of your parents’ assets are properly titled.

2.  Review All Estate Planning Documents, At Least Every 3 years

Just as it’s necessary to have regularly scheduled medical check-ups, even when you are feeling fine, so too an estate plan needs periodic check-ups to make sure that it is still going to work as intended.  The law changes; your assets change, and your family changes too.  Uncovering a problem that might lie buried in your files until it is too late can save you and your family a ton of heartache and thousands of dollars.

Financial or healthcare powers of attorney can go stale, meaning that they may not be accepted if they are old or don’t meet updated legal requirements.  If a parent gets rushed to the hospital, and is then in for some length of time or becomes incapacitated, you could be stuck if they have not executed updated documents.  This not only protects them, but you as well; you need to be able to step in with the legal authority to obtain critical information and handle their affairs.

3.  Plan to Protect Your Inheritance – Don’t Leave it At Risk!

Most estate plans leave an inheritance outright: a lump sum distribution.  This is simple and easy, but dangerous.  If your parents’ estate plan is drafted in the best way possible, you could receive your inheritance completely protected from divorce, estate taxes, and creditor claims.

You can easily plan now by having your parents’ estate plan reviewed and then take the necessary steps to prepare everything for a smooth administration.  Invest a fraction of the time and energy now to avoid major complication, stress and cost later.  It’s one of the best and least expensive investments you can make for your peace of mind.