Answers to the frequently asked questions “who do I have to tell about my estate planning documents” and “how can I find out if my parents/older relatives have any estate planning documents” will often depend on the person’s personal preference who created the plan.
Who do I have to tell about my estate planning documents?
Legally, you are not required to inform anyone during your lifetime about your estate planning documents, who is named in them, or who you named as beneficiaries. That said, I recommend that people inform the primary person they appoint on a Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, and Will or Trust that you have named them. I also strongly recommend that in addition to notifying the primary nominated agents, you inform them where you plan to store your estate planning documents. In the event of incapacity, your agents need to know where to find the documents and what your wishes are so they can act in accordance with your wishes.
Health Care Directives can be kept on record with your primary care provider or primary care network. In the event you need care outside of your usual network, it is important your health care agent has a copy of your directive or knows where to obtain one. While sometimes uncomfortable, it is also important to talk to your nominated healthcare agent(s) about your care wishes.
If you think the person in your Will nominated as your personal representative is going to surprise any of your beneficiaries, I encourage you to have a conversation about your choices so everyone knows who will be in charge of your estate when you are gone.
How can I find out if my parents/older relatives have any estate planning documents?
Unless a client has given me explicit permission to speak with their children or named agents, I cannot disclose that I have ever represented them.
The best place to start if someone is concerned their parents or older relatives have not done any planning is to openly and sincerely ask the individual if they have a plan in place and where they store their documents in the event of a crisis. As noted above, I believe it is a best practice to let people know you have appointed them in your documents. However, some people are not ready to have those conversations with their loved ones.