Legal Planning for Your Family Member’s Decline
What do you do when your family member’s health is declining? What if it is a cognitive decline? How do you start to discuss end of life or health decline issues? Family dynamics are complex and change dramatically as our health declines. So where do you start and what do you need to consider?
Only you know how your family members are likely to respond to different approaches. Some are more receptive to a direct discussion and statement of your concerns. Some may feel better if you are also making your estate plans, and they can tag along. If all of the children are unified and discuss the matter with the parents, that can be helpful.
Generally speaking, when I speak to an elderly person trying to get their affairs in order, I explain to them that we all know something will happen at some point where they will need to have a designated person in charge to help them. That is a fairly simple fact of life. If they do some proper estate planning, sign powers of attorney, and make their own decisions as to end of life care, then they remain in control. However, if they do not make these plans when they are still capable of doing so, then the Court must get involved and they lose their ability to decide. Most people facing their mortality are frightened and frustrated because they have no real control in the situation, but if we help them understand estate planning allows them to maintain control even when they are no longer really able to participate in decision making, that lends some level of comfort.
If your loved ones are not yet ready to do a full estate plan, there are some things you can do to make things easier if something happens before plans are in place. First, make sure that they have a list somewhere of all of their assets, debts, accounts, and passwords. They don’t need to share it with you, but at least let someone know where to look. They must keep it up to date. Someone needs to know how to get into their computers and phones if they are password protected.
If they are ready to speak with an attorney, they should be the one to make the call. Let them schedule the appointment, and let them be the only ones at the appointment, if at all possible. This helps prevent the appearance that someone is manipulating them. Of course calling an attorney can be intimidating, so ask them to read this post on what to expect. We are happy to assist your family in planning for the unknown, empowering your family for the future, and minimizing the legal chaos when an emergency arises. We look forward to helping with all of their estate planning needs.