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How to avoid or solve sibling disputes over the care of a parent

Three Colorado sisters became co-trustees of a family trust when their mother received a diagnosis of dementia. They also had an equal vote when making decisions about her care. Disagreements about the sale of a home resulted in a legal battle. They could also not agree on an out-of-state trip with the mother to visit relatives.

Mediation provided an answer for the sisters. Mediators do not provide legal advice, but they do bring everyone together to address issues. When siblings disagree about whether a parent can continue living independently at home or should move to an assisted-living facility, a mediator can help reframe the discussion to reach a solution – in-home care services and safety upgrades, for instance.

A plan may reduce disagreements

Who will care for an elderly parent, what about a parent’s finances? How much will each sibling contribute to help pay for long-term care? If these questions are left unanswered in estate planning documents, they have the potential to cause conflict. Even a plan leaving all the siblings with equal votes can cause problems.

An experienced estate planning attorney can assist families to develop a plan that accounts for family dynamics. While discussions about housing preferences or end-of-life issues are difficult, they can prevent family conflict.

Each child has different strengths. Often it is best to designate only one adult child or a trusted third party and a successor for that person in a Medical Durable Power of Attorney. If one child has a background in finance, then he or she may a good choice for a Financial Power of Attorney.

By appointing only one child or a neutral third party to make decisions when you are no longer able, you may be able to avoid future disagreements. If siblings are fighting after being given equal votes, a mediator may be able to help.

Source: Kiplinger.com, “Solving Sibling Squabbles Over a Parent’s Care,” Beth Brophy, August 2015

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