June 7, 2011
As a Sacramento trust attorney, I often meet with people who are concerned about their parent’s end of life affairs.
They want to make sure their parent’s assets and wishes stay protected if something happens to them, but they just aren’t sure where to begin the process.
In fact, as I start to ask questions, I find that many adult children have absolutely no idea what plans their parents have in place and what to do if death or incapacity occurs.
Some of the questions I ask include, whether or not mom or dad has a will or trust and, if so, where are these and other important documents located? Should assisted living or nursing home care become necessary, what plans are in place to cover the costs? Will mom or dad even have enough money after these costs to carry them through retirement?
These are some very important questions that need to be addressed, and as a Sacramento trust attorney, it’s my job to steer you in the right direction.
That being said, no matter how good your relationship is with mom or dad, the subject can be a difficult one to approach and start planning for.
Perhaps the best place to start is timing.
Holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are known to be stressful times, so avoid these occasions.
Current events often present the perfect opening, as there is always some Hollywood legend or financial mogul who dies leaving a fortune for the heirs to squabble over.
Or, the personal experience of a friend or relative can be worked into a dialogue. You can say something like, “So-and-So’s mother was admitted to the hospital recently and no one knew where to find her important papers.” This naturally opens the door to talk to mom or dad about their important and any other plans they have in place.
For some families, several conversations over a longer period of time might be a better approach. No one wants to feel like they are being told what to do, and money matters are often emotionally charged to begin with.
Remember, advance preparations are in the best interests of your parents, so that their wishes can be carried out upon death. Be sure to communicate this from the start to avoid your parents shutting down or getting defensive about the questions you are asking.
Finally, don’t forget to include the topic of long-term care in your conversations with mom or dad. While no one likes to think about the possibility of becoming disabled or incapacitated by something like a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease, it does happen and it’s something that must be planned for as well.
If you start early enough, an attorney can help you put the right plans in place to ensure mom or dad’s wishes during incapacity are honored and that they won’t be forced to sell or give away all of their assets in order to qualify for Medi-Cal or federal assistance.
So that’s a few ways you can start the conversation with mom or dad about their estate planning. Of course if you need some more guidance about how to get started or what plans mom or dad should have in place to protect them though the Golden Years, be sure to give our office a call at (916) 241-9661 and schedule a Peace of Mind Planning Session