The BIG Talk - With Your Parents, That Is.
This article was submitted to us by the Law Office of Amy Antonellis.
It is not safe to wait until something catastrophic happens before you intervene with your parents' personal, legal, and financial lives. Many families see the warning signs of aging and tend not to act immediately because a) it can be uncomfortable, perhaps it feels confrontational and b) their parents still believe they are capable of, and want to continue to have 100% autonomy.
However, there are many warning signs that clue you in that something is wrong.
Some of these warning signs include:
- The Mail: Mail will start to pile up, or things that always previously looked so organized start to appear lacking. It can be difficult for aging parents to keep up with all of the mail they're receiving. They may not have the energy or the mental stamina to deal with things such as taxes or paying bills. Pay attention to these mail piles, see if the piles are growing, and look for "Last Notice" type letters. Be especially cognizant of letters from IRS and Social Security.
- Clothing: Aging parents will tend to wear their outfits repeatedly without even noticing. This is a personal hygiene problem that few tend to pick up on. This is also usually a sign that they are not showering as frequently as they should be. How often do you think you'd be showering if you were feeling weak or you didn't think you could make it up the stairs?
- Eating habits: Poor nutrition is common amongst the elderly. Why?...cooking can be annoying when you're healthy, never mind when you're not feeling up to par! Take a look in the fridge. Perhaps they're not food shopping as often or they're buying only prepared meals that they can heat up. It's important to keep tabs on their nutrition and ensure that they continue to receive a proper diet.
Many times, children will know when their parents are having a difficult time but they're hesitant to act because they just don't know how to bring up the subject. Our suggestion is to describe what happened to another family member or somebody else you know who didn't plan, or bring up a newspaper article you recently read, like this one or this one. Another very effective tool is simply looking at your parents and stating that you are concerned that you will be unable to find all of their important documentation and paperwork if anything were to happen to them. Concrete examples help to plant the seed that they need to act.
Lastly, if you're going to talk about drafting an estate plan with your parents don't start off with anything extremely complicated and complex if you know you have some time with them. Maybe a stepping stone could be something as simple as a Power of Attorney or a Health Care proxy. Should they have a full-fledged plan? ABSOLUTELY. However, everybody needs to start somewhere and even these simple documents can save the family thousands of dollars!
It's okay if these conversations feel difficult or uncomfortable. For many this may be the first time that it can be perceived as them "questioning their parents' authority." Keep in mind, these conversations are important for your parents' health, safety, well-being, and ease in the future.
The Law Office of Amy Antonellis - Helping Families Successfully Plan for their Future.