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The Aging Parent Conversation

Never Easy But Necessary

The thought of a parent approaching the end of his or her life is often a disconcerting one. A discussion on the subject is often avoided both by children struggling to bring up the subject, and by aging parents who can fear losing their independence. While the conversation can be an uncomfortable one to start, it’s in everyone’s best interest to have it. Knowing what topics to discuss and what information needs to be gathered can make the conversation more comfortable. If you anticipate needing to talk to your parent about his or her future, the following are helpful points to think about beforehand.

Legal Documents

First, it is important to find out if your parents have important legal documents in place, including a Healthcare Power of Attorney, a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, and an Estate Plan which often includes a Trust and a Last Will and Testament. It is important to determine whether an aging parent has executed these documents because the window to do so will be lost when a physician determines that an aging parent is no longer mentally competent. Unfortunately, without these documents, you can find yourself in probate court trying to become a guardian and/or conservator while your aging parent is living, and you can find yourself there again trying to determine how to handle your aging parent’s estate once he or she has passed. For these reasons, it is imperative to encourage aging parents to plan and execute these documents with an attorney if they have not already done so. If your parents have executed an estate plan, it is important that those whom they have selected to serve as their agents know where the documents can be found. Finally, if your aging parent has a trust, it is imperative to ensure that the trust is properly and completely “funded” so that all appropriate assets will flow through the trust and avoid probate court.

Living Arrangements

Next, it is important to work with your aging parents to understand what their desires are for healthcare, and for finances. For healthcare, a first step is often determining whether an aging parent wants to live on his or her own, and whether that is a possibility. Based upon the answers to those two questions, you can then determine together whether your aging parent can remain in his or her own home, whether he or she can live with relatives, or whether a nursing home is most appropriate. If remaining in the home or moving in with relatives, other provisions must be considered, such as whether the house may require any remodeling to accommodate the aging parent’s needs, and, if moving in with relatives, whether that relative may claim the aging parent as a dependent for income tax purposes. If your parent desires to move into a new home, there may be other considerations to consider, such as a hefty security deposit or a substantial contractual agreement, both of which can tie up a parent’s liquid assets.

Health Care and Finances

At this point, a discussion about finances and health care come into play – what medical insurance do your parents have besides Medicare, if any? What is covered on their health insurance? Do your parents have assets set aside to pay for care in their home, if that is their preference? A discussion about whether your aging parents have purchased long-term care insurance is also appropriate. If they have not, it is a good idea to consider whether to purchase this insurance coverage. While on the topic of finances, it is important to work with aging parents to understand their financial goals, their income sources, their monthly debts and expenses, and financial logistics, such as where they keep their financial records – including tax returns, where their bank and brokerage accounts are maintained, whether they bank online – and where you can find their login information, and whether they have a financial planner, a CPA, and/or an attorney.

Though sometimes difficult to start, a conversation covering the above points should have everyone involved feeling more at ease afterward. If you anticipate needing to talk to an aging parent about his or her future, feel free to contact David B. Mammel at Chapman Law Group at 248-644-6326 for additional guidance.

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David B. Mammel

Shareholder N.E.

Chairperson of Estate Planning & Administration

Michigan Office
1441 West Long Lake Rd., Ste. 310
Troy, MI 48098
Phone: (248) 644-6326

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