The reality is for most people with assets if they do nothing it is likely that their estate will have to go through probate. While our office is very efficient at handling probates, it is not something most heirs enjoy.
What if you do not know if your parents have done estate planning? Obviously, the easiest way to find out is to ask them. However, for some children that is a difficult question. They may feel that they are appearing to be greedy. It is possible that some parents do not want to be asked and feel like their privacy is being invaded. One approach is to turn the question around and indicate to them that they are thinking about doing their own estate planning and inquire as to who they used for their own estate planning.
Maybe discussing the situation with a sibling is the way to proceed. That is especially true if the parents have a better relationship with the sibling or if they believe that sibling is more financially stable.
Some parents are very open to involving their children in their own affairs. I have seen parents ask a child to begin handling their financial affairs including being responsible for bill paying even when the parents are still able. Some parents never ask and children discover bills not being paid for months at a time. For obvious reasons, it is important that once parents start showing evidence of mental decline and serious forgetfulness that there be a system in place to make sure that finances are being properly handled.
While it does not happen frequently, I have counseled children as to how to the approach to take with their parents after listening to their family’s situation. Life is interesting. It frequently comes full circle. The people who brought us in to the world need our help at the end.