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What if my parent dies without an estate plan?

When you were a child, your parents took care of you, including planning for your future. Now, it is your turn to do that for your parents. This is not always an easy transition for adult children.

One of the most difficult aspect having elderly parents is addressing the fact that they will someday pass away. You and your parents will soon need to make an estate plan— a legal document that addresses how someone’s assets, property and possessions should be handled after their death. This is a difficult topic, but an important one.

Dividing an estate without an estate plan

If your parents pass away without am estate plan, distributing their estate can be long and difficult. An intestate estate—that is, an estate that does not have a legally binding estate plan—follows a line of succession. Generally, a court will grant the decedent’s estate to their spouse. If your parent is not married, then the estate will likely pass to you and your siblings, if you have any.

But this is not necessarily a guarantee. It is possible for other people to inherit your parent’s estate, even if your parent would not have wished it. Your aunts and uncles, cousins or grandparents could try to stake a claim to your parent’s estate, even if they were estranged from your parent.

Preparing for your parent’s future

Discussing your parents’ estate may be difficult, but it is very important. Your parent may not feel inclined to create one, but you should stress the importance of creating a legally sound plan. If your parent is put off by the potential legal costs of creating an estate plan, remind them that the costs may actually be much greater in the future if it is necessary to go to court to resolve an estate. Besides, they have worked so hard during their lifetime to accumulate their assets. It is worth it to take the time to prepare for their future by addressing how they would want their estate to be managed.

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