It can be an uncomfortable role reversal when you realize that your parents, who taught you much of what you know and guided you to adulthood, now need your help. This situation might leave you responsible for your parents or the estate they will leave behind. If their affairs aren’t in order, it’ll be up to you to take care of the details during a time that’s already filled with stress and emotion.
Even if your parents are currently mentally and physically capable, you really can’t afford to wait. Now is the time for you to step in and make sure they are prepared for the latter years of their lives. Let’s go over some legal and financial considerations where advanced planning can make a world of difference for you and for your parents.
Get A Will In Place
How many times have you heard a story in the news about a celebrity who died without a will and left their relatives and business partners with a raucous legal battle? Case in point: Almost 40 years after his death, the family of Jimi Hendrix was still going to court to fight it out.
While you may consider your family above such squabbles, it’s better not to test that assumption. You never know how large amounts of money will affect people and their behavior. It is important for your parents to have a will that spells out their final wishes, including who will carry out those wishes as the executor of their estate.
This is especially important in situations with blended families. It’s all too common for someone to neglect to update their will and leave an ex-wife or ex-husband as the sole inheritor or executor of an estate. Not only do your parents need a will, but they also need to make sure it is updated to reflect their current situation and desired legacy.
The importance of double-checking beneficiary designations goes beyond just a will. Make sure your parents have gone through all of their accounts, including life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other savings and verified that their listed beneficiaries are correct.
Begin The Long-Term Care Conversation
If your mom is over 65, there’s a 58% chance that she will need long-term care at some point, and on average that would be about 2½ years of care. For your dad, there’s a 47% chance that he will need long-term care. (1) Those numbers are high and need to be taken seriously.
Your whole family needs to come together to develop a plan for caring for your parents when the time comes. Discuss topics such as: Who will provide care for them? Who will pay for the care? Does it make sense for them to purchase long-term care insurance?
All too often, the most responsible or local son or daughter ends up shouldering the entire burden. This leads to burnout and resentment toward the other siblings. Save your family the trouble and proactively come up with a plan that everyone can agree on.
Assign Roles And Responsibilities
One out of three Americans over age 85 has Alzheimer’s disease. (2) There’s a good chance that a time will come when at least one of your parents is no longer able to make decisions for himself or herself. Who is going to make decisions for them at that point, both financial and medical?
While this can be an uncomfortable conversation, don’t avoid it. This is something you need to discuss with your parents and get the proper legal documents in place before they become incapacitated. Having simple powers of attorney written up will save you the trouble of going to court to request the right to help your parents when they need it most. And if your parents are comfortable with it, it would be a good idea to have one or more of their kids added to a bill-paying account. This way, if an emergency situation arises, they can access cash reserves to pay bills and debt payments immediately instead of waiting for assets to be released or legal documents to be enacted.
Invest In Your Relationship
While it is important to have all of the proper legal documents in place and have a plan for how to take care of your parents when they can no longer take care of themselves, for most people, their biggest regret is simply that they didn’t make the most of their time with their parents.
We all know that our time here on earth is limited, so we need to spend it investing in those we love. As you watch your parents age, it’s a visual reminder that your time with them is coming to an end. Consider creating a routine to make sure you spend time with them frequently while you still can. Can you make a standing date for breakfast on Fridays or a phone call on Sunday afternoons? Carving time out of your busy schedule for your parents is one of the very best ways to prepare for these final years of their lives.
You’re Not Alone
We at Grace Wealth Management Group know it can be overwhelming to think about writing a will, planning care, and making these critical decisions, especially with all the emotions involved. And parents are not always receptive to these types of discussions with their children—who at one time needed them to take care of their every need.
In these situations (as well as many others), it can be incredibly helpful to work with an experienced financial professional who knows the ins and outs of latter-year planning, someone who can be a neutral third party during emotional family discussions. If you would like help planning for your parents’ future, our team is here for you. Schedule an appointment here to get started!
About Jim Peters
Jim Peters is an independent financial advisor and the founder of Grace Wealth Management Group, Inc., a full-service financial firm committed to helping people pursue their financial goals. With more than 24 years of experience in the industry, Jim combines his extensive knowledge with his genuine interest in helping people pursue financial independence. Beyond his experience, he is certified as both a Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) and Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®), meaning he has advanced training and knowledge in financial planning and insurance. Based in Irvine, California, Jim specializes in working with individuals, families, and businesses throughout Orange County. To learn more, connect with Jim on LinkedIn or visit www.financialadvisorirvine.com.