Some of my clients are adult children of aging parents who are struggling to accept the fact that their parents are experiencing the mental and/or physical deterioration that accompanies the natural aging process. When a parent’s aging makes them vulnerable, a role reversal often occurs. The parent becomes at least partly dependent on the child, who becomes the caregiver. When this begins to happen, I strongly urge adult children to discuss aging and estate planning issues with their parent(s).
Have a Conversation As Soon As Possible
It may be difficult to plan the discussion; however, you never know when physical injuries or mental deterioration could render a parent incapacitated. Putting off the conversation could result in your parents missing out on the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the conservation. Furthermore, if your parent does reach the point of legal incapacitation, they will no longer be able to legally the important legal documents which might ensure that their preferences regarding health care and asset management are honored. Just as you would want your input to be considered when discussing who might make decisions for you or control your assets, your parent undoubtedly wants his or her input considered as well. Do not take that opportunity away by waiting too long to have a discussion.
Prepare for the Conversation
Take some time to decide what issues are most important to cover when you talk to your parents. Each situation is unique; however, some common topics that you might want to put on your list include:
- Long-term care planning. We all enter our retirement years with a 50 percent chance of needing long-term care at some point, and the odds increase the longer we live. The average cost of a year in long-term care (LTC) in North Carolina for 2022 was almost $100,000. Have your facts and figures ready so you can impress upon your parents the need to plan in case LTC is needed. For many seniors, that means incorporating Medicaid planning into their overall estate plan.
- Power of attorney or Trust. A parent may wish to give an adult child a durable power of attorney and establish a Living Trust and make an adult child a Co-Trustee or successor Trustee so that someone else has the legal authority to manage the parent’s finances and assets. Make sure, however, that your parents have a clear understanding of the authority granted to an Agent under a general POA and Trust.
- Advance directives. Many people have very clear wishes regarding end-of-life medical care. The only way for your parents to be certain those wishes will be honored is to execute a Living Will, which will lay out those wishes in detail. In addition, your parents may wish to execute a Health Care Power of Attorney that gives someone the authority to make health care decisions for your parent if he or she cannot make them because of incapacity.
- Guardianship. Guardianship is the most restrictive and least attractive option available when an individual cannot safely make decisions and/or manage his or her own affairs. Discussing the possibility ahead of time can cause the importance of using the other documents discussed here as a means of avoiding guardianship resonate for your parent.
- Family Conflict. I strongly encourage people to include all family members in these conversations. The instinct of many dutiful children is to avoid the conflict that might come with family. I suggest including siblings who may not be involved as caregivers and other family members in the conversation. In my experience, it is better to include everyone. It reduces suspicion on the part of those otherwise not involved and exposes potential disputes. No surprises is a valuable characteristic as you and your parent go through this process.
Contact Durham Elder Law Attorneys
If you have additional questions or concerns about how to talk to your parents about issues related to aging, please contact the Durham elder law attorneys at Clarity Legal Group by calling us at 919-484-0012 or contactus online.
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