While it may feel difficult to bring up sensitive issues related to aging, adult children should think carefully about how to facilitate conversations with their parents about the possibility of eventual physical or cognitive decline and about getting their personal and financial affairs in order, sooner rather than later. Doing this while they are healthy allows them to plan for eventualities according to their personal wishes during a calmer stretch of life with plenty of time for thorough planning.
This kind of conversation will look different depending on the individuals involved. Some parents are very private and prefer not to discuss details of these issues, even with their own families. Other parents are more comfortable sitting down with their children to talk about these matters and any legal planning they may have already done.
In either scenario, an adult child can urge his or her parent to consult with an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney to provide comprehensive advice about financial, medical and estate matters. Some of the topics and legal strategies that may be appropriate include:
- Medicaid planning in anticipation of the possible need to finance long-term care
- Health care directives like a medical power of attorney (living will) to direct future caregivers about the kinds of medical care desired, including end-of-life treatment choices, and to designate someone to make health care decisions on the person’s behalf in case of incapacity, called a health care proxy
- Financial power of attorney to give a trusted person the power to act on behalf of the parent in financial and business affairs should the parent become incapacitated
- Estate planning such as the use of wills, trusts and gifts so that the parent’s wishes about the transfer of his or her money and property to chosen individuals are carried out, either before or after death
A recent article in Consumer Reports explores ways for adult children to begin these important conversations, along with suggestions about how the kids can support their parents through the stages of aging.