Dear Members and Friends,
I want to cover a topic of concern that a good number of people tend to shy away from these days. I am talking here about going beyond the physical or mental care that is being given to our parents. Perhaps they are old, suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or some other malady. Perhaps they have physical issues that do not allow them to function in a normal manner, let alone take care of themselves properly. Whatever the issue is, we all tend to look at the physical components and very rarely the financial components. I have addressed before in regard to estate planning, financial planning, insurance planning, etc. But that discussion was mostly in regard to what we do or should do for ourselves and our immediate families.
I want to relate to this by talking about what hit close to home for me several years ago. Although it is still difficult for me to do, I will talk a bit about my own parents, as this will be similar to many people regardless of their status or whereabouts. My father was the finest man that I ever knew. He spent his life working hard to care for his family, but eventually age and a tragic disease, Alzheimer’s, caught up with him in his late eighties. After suffering with this disease for a year or so, he passed away. Prior to that and while he was still lucid, I was able to sit down with him and organize his financial life. My sister was the administrator of his estate, and this all made it much easier for her to handle that part of the administration. My mother suffers from this illness to this day and gratefully, all parts of her financial life are in order. I cannot begin to tell you how much this helped in making it somewhat easier from a financial perspective during a very difficult and emotional period of time. You do not want to make decisions at a time when you are not fully focused, as they usually do not come out the right way. And there is no need to be involved with a legal process that makes decisions for you, especially if you disagree with them.
The point here is that you need to recognize when the time is appropriate (the earlier the better) to sit down with your parents and have a discussion that benefits them during their lifetime. The most common statement that we tend to hear from our parents is that they do not want to be a burden on their children. It is very common as well that our parents, who are from an earlier generation, do not want or choose not to discuss money or financial issues with their children, let alone anyone else. And children (adults) do not want to be a burden on their parents as well. Sometimes they see asking financial questions as an intrusion of privacy, when in fact it is a way to make the entire process flow more smoothly.
But what can being a burden really mean? Being a burden can mean not knowing where documents are that are important, such as Wills, Living Wills, Powers of Attorney and Health Care documents. Being a burden can mean not knowing where bank accounts are held, tax returns are kept, important papers are filed and not knowing certain information about important family items or heirlooms. Being a burden can mean not knowing what is important to them in the area of final requests such as burial or cremation. Being a burden can mean not knowing what final wishes there are for services, notifications, gifts to charities and much more.
There is a lot more here to talk about, but the most important first step is to have a discussion with your parents and other family members who are involved with this. One of the services that I have provided is an organizer that puts all of this information in one place that is easily accessible for future use and can be updated on an annual basis or when needed. It is a service that I provide for all of my clients.
I encourage you to begin the conversation. You will be so glad that you did. Make sure that your caring goes every possible way that it can and that it benefits the care that your parents have earned and deserve. You want to make sure that their wishes are fulfilled, just as they did for you.
R. Dale Adcock