Discussing Estate Planning with Elderly Parents

Eleanor Roosevelt stated, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” In keeping with that sentiment, instead of wishing we knew what our elderly parents may have wanted, it is best if we can help them plan to make sure their wishes are carried out. As our parents get older, it becomes increasingly more important for them to have a comprehensive plan in place. Such a plan should address (1) a long-term health care plan, (2) deciding and legally empowering who they prefer to give decision-making authority for medical and financial matters in the event of incapacity, and (3) how their estate will provide the best protection for them. While nothing may truly prepare us for the emotions we face when a parent dies or becomes disabled, having an effective plan in place may help reduce confusion, as well as provide peace of mind to everyone involved.

Family Involvement and Beginning Discussions

In order to design an effective estate plan, family involvement may be fundamental. Children of elderly parents should be involved in estate and health care planning discussions. However, these topics may be difficult to discuss with elderly parents. In that instance, one strategy would be to appoint one person to help initiate the conversation. This person should be someone that the parent(s) relate(s) to the best, trusts and is comfortable disclosing their wishes. This person may be a family member, a close friend, clergy, the family attorney or other trusted professional advisor. Another approach that has been successful is to bring up estate planning generally and ask your parent’s (parents’) advice. By bringing up the topic in this manner, it is likely that your parent(s) will also begin thinking about their own estate planning (or lack there of) and may not feel pressured into discussing the matter.

Topics to Discuss

The more we know about our elderly parents’ wishes, the better able we are to help ensure that those wishes are carried out. When it comes to estate and health care planning, there are several important topics that should be discussed. Such topics include but are not limited to wills, trusts, long-term health care, advanced directives, and powers of attorney.

There may come a time when an elderly parent loses the ability to make reasoned decisions. In that situation, if the parent has executed a Durable Power of Attorney, then they have chosen a person to have the legal authority to make decisions and protect their interests. The Durable Power of Attorney helps prevent the family from going through the public process of the Probate Court appointing a Conservator. A Durable Power of Attorney allows a person to act on their behalf for financial and legal matters. A Health Care Power of Attorney appoints a Patient Advocate to have the legal right to make medical decisions. In this way, the HCPOA helps avoid the need for the Probate Court to appoint a Guardian. The PAD goes into effect when the parent is unable to give informed consent but only lasts until the parent is once again able to make his or her own medical decisions.

Speak with an Experienced ElderCare Estate Planning Attorney

When considering estate planning for elderly parents, it is important to consult an experienced ElderCare Estate Planning Attorney. An estate planning attorney with expertise in elder care planning can help clarify goals, consider planning options, and design and implement an effective, personalized plan to fit the needs of elderly parents. With the counsel of a properly qualified estate planning attorney and an appropriate plan in place, we can best ensure that our elderly parent(s) receive(s) the highest possible quality of life and quality of care while maximizing the protection of their estate.