Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

Aging Population

I often hear children with aging parents refer to their parents’ assets as their inheritance. 

We now are living in an age where people are living much longer.  It is highly likely that parents will outlive their assets rather than pass them on. 

Good financial and estate planning needs to take this longevity into account.  As we have more golden years, it will cost more money.  As we age, we will encounter more illness and disability.  How do we plan for these outcomes?

Family discussions are important as we confront these questions.  What are parents’ expectations concerning their incapacity?  Do they believe that they will be cared for by one of their children?  Do the children have the same expectation?

How will a parent be cared for if they are simply unable to live independently in the family home?  Will it be by moving in with one of the children?  Will it be moving to an assisted living home?  How do the children feel about their parents’ wishes?  

Financial considerations are important as well.  Will parents have sufficient assets and income to afford assisted care? 

How will a parent be cared for if they are medically incapacitated by severe illness, dementia, or stroke? Are the parents opposed to nursing home care?  Are the children prepared to take their parents into their homes and give them skilled nursing care?

How would the financial aspects of this care be addressed?  Do parents have long term care insurance?  Is it available and affordable?  If no, what is the plan?

If the plan involves living with a child, would there be a financial consideration for that child?  It is best to discuss this with all family members present.

These are very difficult questions but they should be addressed prior to an illness or accident.  A plan should be developed by the whole family.  Planning is key.

Asking the hard questions of aging parents

You have aging parents – but they are doing great right now.  Your concern is that you have no idea how to handle things in the future – you don’t know what they want. 

You have seen your friends confronted with these issues when a crises has occurred and it has created chaos and stress within the family.

If your parents are private people, how do you start this difficult conversation?

Pick a time when you are together with your parents, when everyone is relaxed and there are not a lot of distractions. 

Explain that you don’t know what their plans are for their future and as their children, you want to know how they would want to have things handled – you want to get it right – to honor their wishes.  You may actually find that your parents are relieved because they didn’t know how to get this conversation started. It is better to have this conversation now than at a time of crises.

  • Ask about their goals for their short term and long term future.  Have they considered their finances as they move forward?  Are there any concerns?
  •  How would they like things handled for them in the future?  What are their           concerns?  Why do they feel as they do? 
  • Do they have any estate planning documents?  If so, where are they located?  If not, discuss whether this might be a good time to investigate estate planning. 
  • Who are their professional advisors?  Financial advisor, accountant, insurance agents, attorney, doctors. 
  • What are their wishes for future living arrangements? Do they have long term care insurance?  Do they have sufficient financial security to stay in their own home? 
  • What are their funeral and/or burial wishes?  Do they have a prearrangement with a funeral home?  Do they have a prepaid funeral?

Stress the fact that you cannot help them and honor their wishes if you do not know what those goals, wishes and desires are.

Remember that this first conversation will be difficult for them and for you.  It may be a time to only break the ice.  There may be a need for future discussions.