As the holiday season approaches, families often gather together to celebrate and spend time with each other. For many, this may be the only time of year when everyone is in the same place. Yet, amidst the laughter and joy, it’s not uncommon for certain concerns to surface.
We often hear from our clients that much has changed in a short time – perhaps mom isn’t remembering where she put the car keys, dad may not be as steady on his feet, or your brother seems to be receiving a lot of gifts from grandma who has dementia. The arrival of new family members through births adds an extra layer of excitement, while unforeseen illnesses can bring unexpected challenges. One thing is certain, a lot can change in one year. When celebrating the holidays, it can also be an important time to set aside time and address some serious topics.
If it seems clear that aging parents are in need of assistance, it is important to discuss the issue with them. Assistance needs can run the gamut from needing an extra hand with house and yard work to medication management, meal prep, living adjustments, and everything in between. For those who come home to older family members and notice, perhaps for the first time, that there is a change in how the older family members are acting or reacting, it may be time to have a serious conversation about whether a visit to the doctor is needed to evaluate capacity or diagnose dementia. These conversations can allow a family to seek help from those qualified to help, especially in terms of planning for how to pay for and plan for long-term care and protection of assets.
A vital topic is whether there are Power of Attorney documents in place, and if so, whether they are accurate and up to date. Another, which is often last on everyone’s list, is conversations about end-of-life medical decisions, and financial decisions. It is vitally important that adults have a Durable Power of Attorney to allow someone legal authority to take care of them. This, ideally, prevents the need to obtain a guardianship or conservatorship in the future.
However, these issues do not necessarily discriminate by age. Parents of young children should consider how their children will be cared for. Naming a guardian in a will ensures that your desires will be respected and will hopefully keep relatives from fighting over the children and your estate. For parents of almost any age, discussions about what your wishes are in the event of death is crucial.
Encouraging open communication among family members is a cornerstone of effective planning. Establishing a space allows everyone to voice their concerns and preferences. Remember, these conversations are an ongoing process.Additionally, while family discussions are invaluable, seeking professional advice is equally crucial. Attorneys specializing in elder law, financial advisors experienced in retirement planning, and health care professionals can offer invaluable insights and recommendations tailored to your family’s unique situation.
Overall, the holiday season can be an important time to address these serious topics and plan for the future. By having open and honest conversations with your loved ones and seeking the help of professionals, you can ensure that your family is prepared for the challenges that may arise in the coming years.
Should you require assistance with your estate planning needs, including the drafting of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, health care directives, handling of probates, or assistance with questions on potential guardianships, conservatorships, or vulnerable adult protection actions, our office is here to assist. We are located on the waterfront, next door to the Edmonds Senior Center.
144 Railroad Ave. Suite 211
Edmonds, WA 98020