If I have learned nothing from the journey that my family has taken with my parents and from my years of experience in nursing, it is that I need to think and prepare in advance for how I want my later years to be and make it as easy as possible on my kids. I have already begun to apologize to my kids for what I will inevitably put them through in the end; even with good preparation. There is just no avoiding some of that ‘burden’ on your children, but I can do many things to make is as seamless as possible.
One of the things that you and I need to take care of is making sure that all of our legal documents are in order. Things like: Power of Attorney (general, financial and medical), Living Will/Advance Directive and a Will. These are things that just need to happen before you reach a point that you are unable to execute them. Without these basic documents, you risk putting your families through some tough situations.
Let me give you an example. My father did not put into place a general Power of Attorney (POA) prior to his decline into dementia. During his stages of paranoia, he did not feel comfortable setting up a POA, and now feels that my mother is the default POA, failing (and unable) to realize that something could happen to her! (After all, she will be 80 this year as well!)
So, while my brother has been granted Financial POA, he is unable to do things like call my dad’s insurance company and have discussions with them about policies and benefits. This really complicates the communication and management process.
And, in order for him to be granted a General POA, we would have to have my father declared incompetent in a court of law and have my brother designated as his guardian. This is not only costly, but is tedious, time-consuming and more importantly, feels terrible. To have to have a family member declared incompetent adds to the burden and guilt on a son or daughter.
Laying it all out and taking care of these things while you are still of sound mind may seem like something that doesn’t need to be done today. But if you wait too long, problems can develop. Doing these things gives you the best control about the course of action that will be taken when you are no longer able to take care of yourself. If you don’t communicate your wishes fully, you may not get the things you wish for in the end. Your son or daughter may not choose to do things the way that you want them done!
I would suggest that you seek counsel from an elder law attorney in your area/state to help you with this process. They should be well versed in all of the specifics that may vary from state to state and keep up to date on all the changes that would affect these types of documents.
In an Associate Press article in my local paper on February 3, 2012 they indicated the following:
“Failing to create a financial or estate plan isn’t just a matter of missing out on investment opportunities or tax advantages. It can get you in trouble later in retirement when you’re no longer at the top of your game mentally. Without guidance or a plan, elderly investors can harm their finances through unwise decisions.”
So, if you love your kids and truly don’t want to be a ‘burden’, do it! Plan. Organize. Communicate.
On the journey with you…….Kathy