Asking your loved ones end of life questions

You might have noticed your parents, or loved ones, need more help such as the house is uncharacteristically dirty; they are not eating properly; they are having problems with driving a vehicle; or struggling with payment of bills and handling investments.  Everyone, including parents, fear the idea of losing control.  Children are uncomfortable as well since they don’t want to appear or want to feel to be greedy or nosy.  Therefore, it is important to ask the parents what is important to them and what family can do to support them in their wishes and decisions.

There are many reasons parents don’t want to talk regarding their end of life questions.  Maybe it just makes them uncomfortable or is too ghoulish to discuss; others just expect family to sort it out after death.  It is important to try to have these discussions to avoid squabbles, protect assets, and have someone named in advance that they trust to help them make financial and healthcare decisions if they can’t anymore.  It is also important to know where their accounts, passwords, retirement plans, and insurance plans are located in case of an emergency or death.  Questions regarding if they can’t live independently need to be addressed.  Move in with family?  Family member(s) move in with them?  Assisted living?  How to pay?  Protect assets? These are difficult conversations and it will take multiple conversations and should include all affected family members.

I would say the easiest way to have a discussion is to start with your own planning as a child or loved one.  I have a Last Will and Testament and I have a provision for my special needs son, for instance.  My trusted daughter is my Power of Attorney and Healthcare Representative and if I can’t make my financial decisions and healthcare choices.  Or, I have long-term care insurance or an advanced plan to protect my assets if long-term care is needed.  Make sure the discussion is done in a quiet calm setting such as routine family dinner, and not an emotionally charged situation (if it can be avoided).

Suggesting a talk with an elder law attorney or a trusted financial advisor would also be a good step.  You should be aware that the parents are the clients of the elder law attorney, not you.  If any information is to be released to you, and whether or not you are allowed in the meeting, is solely up to the parents or loved ones.  The parents have a right of confidentiality and attorney-client privilege with the attorney, unless the parents waive this right of confidentiality and privacy.

There is no template to how to do this.  Each family is different in the relationship between the parties.  But the first step is to start the discussion.

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