I very often find myself advising adult children of the elderly on the intricacies of managing their parents’ finances. While it may seem straightforward at first, there are a lot of details and difficulties that can get in the way. There are so many things to coordinate, and often the parent is less than helpful in the process. Being somewhat prepared and having access to an experienced elder law or estate lawyer ways you can help avoid some of the more common pitfalls, such as:
• Memory Loss – Memory loss is prevalent among the elderly, and it is one of the big reasons that adult children are called in to take over finances. Unfortunately, it also makes the job that much more difficult because the parent is not able to answer important questions such as “How much do you owe?” or “When is this bill due?”
• Role Reversal – For the majority of the adult child’s life, the parent has been in charge. Taking over and being firm with the parent can be more than a little uncomfortable. On top of that, it can be frustrating and cause resentment to see the person who taught you so much no longer following their own advice.
• Lack of Information – Your parent may have chosen to be forthcoming about finances with an elder law lawyer, but that does not mean that they want to let their children in on all the financial details of their life. Previous generations found it improper to discuss money, resulting in an air of secrecy that can be difficult to break through.
So, how should you deal with these obstacles?
As with so many other aspects of life, the best way to deal with problems is to avoid them altogether. The earlier you and your parent start meeting with a elder law attorney that you trust, the more likely you are to get the information you need. As an bonus, your parent will have the ability to make his or her wishes known to offer guidance on how to handle their affairs if and when all of the responsibility is passed on to you.
No matter what stage the parent is at, the subject needs to be approached. Again, earlier is better, as the parent is more likely to understand the importance of what is happening. You may choose to start the conversation by relating it to your estate planning or by bringing up a situation you heard about recently, such as the death of a celebrity. A good attorney can offer suggestions on how to bring up the subject, as well as how to help steer the conversation in the right direction.