Estate Planning Lawyer
Are you part of the sandwich generation? Somewhere in your 40s or 50s, taking care of your own family? And, if so, you are probably at your wit’s end.
Being The Caregiver, and Having The Difficult Conversation with your Parents.
It is very stressful if you are the “chosen” one to take care of your parents. Being chosen is usually just being a child in town. Perhaps your siblings live separate and independent lives out of town. You are the one they call when the water pipes burst, and there’s water all over the basement. Further, you are the one they call when Dad is having chest pains. Now it is you deciding if we should call 911. You straighten out banking issues and reboot the computer.
The Difficult Conversation with your Parents; What Happens When Age Takes Its Toll?
The biggest question to address with your parents is – what happens if one or both of you are incapacitated? Do you want me to make decisions on your behalf? Do you have Powers of Attorney for Health? How about Powers of Attorney for Property? Who, if anyone, is authorized to make those decisions?
Acting for Your Parents in Financial Matters.
Having one child on the parent’s checking account is common. So you can write checks, pay bills and access those funds in the event of disability. However, what if Mom suddenly has a stroke? What if she is unable to make any decisions? Can you access her retirement account to be able to pay for her long term care? If there is no Power of Attorney, the answer is no. You will have to open up a guardianship with the court. Now a judge is now in charge. The court will oversee what is spent, and what is done in the care of Mom. Guardianships are expensive, time-consuming and somewhat humiliating. Because the Judge can question all of the expenses that you incur, plus, you must have an awkward conversation with Mom and Dad to discuss their preferences for how the money will be spent. Would they want it to be used for a caregiver at home? Would they be ok to live in a senior facility? Have these difficult conversations when your parents are coherent and healthy.
Acting for Your Parents in Medical Matters.
When it comes to health, you should also discuss end of life decisions. Some decisions are about on-going care. For example, if Mom has a stroke or is suffering from dementia. You may be making on-going decisions under a Power of Attorney for Health. Other decisions are about ending health care. For example, if there is no chance of recovery and the doctor is asking about DNR (do not resuscitate) instructions. Talk to your parents about both situations. Do they want their lives prolonged no matter what? Or do they give more weight to the quality of life? The agent can make the final decision whether to keep him/her on life support.
Difficult Conversation with your Parents; Have Them Now, Not Later.
These are difficult conversations to tackle at the dinner table. But if you can have them with all of the children in the room, make sure your parents follow up with documenting their wishes in an estate plan with an estate planning lawyer in Schaumburg, IL, then you and your siblings will have a much easier time taking care of them in the future.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Bott & Associates for their insight into estate planning and parents.