As parents (and on the other side, children) we are taught that there is a necessity that we have “THE TALK” about various topics. We talk to our young children about sex, drugs, drinking alcohol and much more. We believe that having these “BIG” conversations are an important factor in making sure that things are done correctly. Sometimes I find that my elder law clients believe that there is a specific time when they, too, should have “THE TALK” with their adult children about their wishes for future medical care and their estate plan in general. Many of them ask me, “when is the “right time” to bring up these subjects?” I try to tell them that there really is not one “RIGHT TIME”. For some it might be best to schedule a formal discussion. This is especially true if they are having trouble deciding who to appoint to help them, or if they may want to get their children’s input on what to do with the family home in the future. In that case, it is best if they have an agenda list so that they can focus on the key points and keep the discussion moving. I also say that you do not have to cover everything in one meeting. Sometimes a series of discussions is the best approach. Still other clients find that an informal discussion is the best approach. I know of at least one who had a small family party to discuss these important topics! What truly matters is the conversation. Seniors can certainly sometimes find it hard to talk to family members about difficult life decisions. Due to this they can sometimes put off the conversations, or when they occur, hastily gloss over the details. Enlisting the help of an elder law attorney can help provide someone who can guide all family members through the sensitive, and often emotional subjects. By having someone outside the family involved, I can often provide unbiased assistance in identifying the actions that must be taken and suggest options for planning that they may not have been exposed to previously.
With that in mind I find myself offering additional advice. There are some truly important factors that I want my clients to keep in mind. I tell my clients that preparation is key.
Clients really need to be prepared prior to having a discussion about future plans. After all, they will most likely be discussing where to live in the future, plans for long term care and end of life wishes, all of which can be sensitive topics. Perhaps most importantly, they should be talking about the protection of assets, as this is what will enable them to continue to be able to make any choices as they age! While certainly not all families need my help, there are certainly instances and circumstances where having both the guidance and legal support of an attorney may be quite beneficial. Legal and health related issues can arise unexpectedly at any time and, without proper preparation, seniors can have trouble with managing unexpected issues. They often don’t understand that part of their “estate plan” should include frank discussion about the future. It seems to me that most people equate an estate plan with having a last will. Certainly a last will can be an important document to have, but I always tell my seniors “slow down, let’s talk about what happens while you are alive before jumping to what happens following your death!” An elder law attorney, like myself, can create a power of attorney for both property and healthcare, as well as a living will. Some other common elder law services include management of wills and trusts, handling of healthcare planning and offering guidance on private and public benefits. We can assist with helping them in selecting and moving into a retirement or care community, as well as helping guide those who need in-home care. I pride myself on being a resource for my clients, and where necessary, can bring other professionals in to offer help as well.
So go ahead and plan to have “THE TALK”. Whether you are planning for your immediate future or something years down the road, as an elder law attorney I stand ready to help you make difficult choices easier and to help prepare you for whatever the future may hold.