Estate Planning and Asset Protection
When is it time to start talking about Estate Planning and Asset Protection?
It seems that people are often only starting a conversation with me when something has already happened, someone fell, someone hurt themselves, someone is already needing long term care. But then I realized, before you can even have a conversation with a third party, you need to know what you’re even discussing. And to do that, you need to talk to your family. So this month, I’m going to write about when to have a conversation with each other and how to do it.
I bet you’ve seen a million articles on this subject. But I write mine, as always, with examples of what I did and what I saw in my own family. In this case, as I’ve said before, my parents and I had no conversation at all. That left me just guessing about what to do.
And I’m telling you now, I would have done things differently.
My Personal Story
I’ve always known that people prefer to be at home. And really, wouldn’t you prefer to be in the comfort of your own home as opposed to a hospital, a nursing home, someone else’s home? Now a hospital you don’t have a lot of choice if you need a very high level of care (not yet, anyway). I haven’t heard of a traveling operating room. But there are more and more programs and options to stay home, even if you aren’t safe by yourself anymore.
So when my mom got sick, my first call was to hospice. I knew that hospice was supposed to help people stay home, so they could die at home rather than in a hospital. But hospice came in and my mom refused to accept it. As you may recall, not one doctor had yet told my mom she was going to die when she was lucid and not pumped full of pain medication. I think that when hospice came in, this may have been the first time she was confronted with the idea. And worse, it was the first time any of us considered how we all wanted to be allowed to live when we couldn’t do it by ourselves anymore.
Instead of spending the next few days talking with mom, maybe talking to a counselor with her, I just let her say no to hospice. Because it was a hard conversation, because I didn’t want to force my mom to accept she was going to die, because she seemed to be making a fully informed decision. But she wasn’t. Because her mind was already impaired—she was already partially incapacitated. Because she didn’t understand that without hospice and without help, she was going to end up in a facility. Because I didn’t understand that either.
So I struggled to keep up with her care by myself. And I failed. There was no way I could succeed. By doing nothing, we set ourselves up to fail. So I kept trying to take care of mom. And finally, she wasn’t safe. She was falling, she was wandering, she was deteriorating rapidly. So I insisted that hospice was coming in whether she liked it or not. And they did. And it helped a little. But not enough. And she fell again, and wandered more. And I didn’t sleep because I had to get up for her. And finally I said she had to go somewhere else, because I couldn’t keep her safe at home. So she did, and I slept there at night and stayed there all day. And she died 5 days later. And all I could think was that I wished I had kept her at home. Because it would only have been 5 more days. And I can do anything for 5 days.
If that story sounded familiar to, you are not alone.
What is a reasonable time frame for “the talk”?
It is familiar to almost every family that has gone through something like this. Struggling to catch up to a situation that has gotten far beyond you. So when should you have a conversation with your family about what happens if…? Well I was 28 years old when my mom died. And she was 67. So if you think there’s still time, and everyone is healthy and will be for a long time, you are lying to yourself because you want to let yourself not do something hard. You need to have the conversation before you NEED to have the conversation. That’s the only time it’s going to help you.
If your kids are adults, start talking to them now.
If your parents are still healthy, start talking to them now.
If you aren’t healthy, you needed to talk to your kids yesterday.
If your parents aren’t healthy, same thing.
Important: Don’t let your family put you off.
Don’t let them say they don’t want to talk about it.
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