As we age it’s a good idea of start thinking about tidy’s up our lives. I’m not taking about “Marie Kondoing” your home. (If you don’t know who she is, well then think about Mary Poppins and her idea of clean). No, I’m talking about putting things in order so that if we need help during our lives, people we trust can help us. I’m also talking about making sure the people who will help us, have the right information, understand our wants and desires, and most of all our thoughts on death and dying.
While that may not seem that a fun conversation to have, its none the less an important one. What follows are some thoughts about the things you should discuss with your children while you can and what you can do to help prepare them for the possibility they may need to step into your lives and manage for you.
Financial Management Conversation
This conversation does not have to reveal every bit of information about your assets, but your children should know where you bank, who your financial advisor is, and a general idea of they kind and type of assets you hold. A simple spreadsheet, or just a written list of information will be very helpful.
Estate Planning Conversation
Being able to locate copies of your estate planning documents, especially your power of attorney and health care directive, is very important. If you are going to give your kids a copy of any of your estate planning documents, these are the ones to give them. Florida law allow a copy of these documents provided electronically, to suffice if needed. Sometimes clients tell me they don’t feel comfortable giving their children a power of attorney, since it becomes effective when signed. I tell them there’s an easy solution. Since I maintain an electronic copy in my files, I will be happy to send a copy if directed by them or if the child contacts me with a triggering event- illness or accident. If you keep your documents, or copies at home, leave instructions where those are located. If they are in a safe deposit box, unless the child’s name is on the box entry card, they won’t be able to retrieve them. That’s another time I can provide the copy, so make sure your attorney’s information is with you documents.
Wishes Regarding Burial or Cremation Conversation
This can be a difficult decision for family to make when no clear instructions are left. Some families have strong feelings about burial or cremation and if your wishes will conflict with those feelings, it better to make your intentions clear. Often clients like to prepay final expenses and leave that information with the estate planning documents, so children don’t have to make those decisions during a time of grief.
Long Term Care Conversation
If the time comes when you can’t live alone where would you prefer to live? Some clients have children who offer to let mom or dad live with them. Sometimes this is a great solution, but other times it may not be. Families have very busy lives these days, and a senior living in the home could feel lonely and isolated during work and school hours. Others just prefer to have their own space and don’t want to be around the hustle and bustle of a busy family. I’ve had children surprised when mom or dad turns down the offer, or the opposite can occur, you might think your children would love to have you in their home, only to find the opposite is true.
It’s helpful if you express your thoughts early on before the necessity arises. Would you want to live at home with assistance, or would you prefer an active assisted living community where you would you would live among your peers?
Health Care Conversation
Many of my clients involve their children in health care long decision making long before they involve them in financial matters. Allowing children to have access to medical information can be very helpful especially when you are considering a medical procedure with risks involved and want that second opinion. Or maybe you want your child to have access to medical testing so he or she can review it with you. Also, it’s important to keep an updated list of prescription medications, any specialists you see, and the dates of important medical procedures, in case you can’t provide this information during an emergency.
These conversations are important to have with whomever would be your decision maker- a brother, sister, cousin, or close friend, who may need to step up to manage for you in a time of accident or illness.
Below are a few links you can check out for more information.
This is a good article for general information about this topic.
This has a downloadable chart where you can fill in information that can be updated when necessary and kept with your estate planning documents.
If you find it hard to initiate these conversations with your adult children, you can always send them one of the articles above to start a dialogue. Or, do like I do when my clients tell me the children don’t want to talk about these things, I tell them to say,” My attorney said I have to do this because it’s the responsible thing to do”. That usually does the trick!