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Are you responsible for your parent's estate planning?

It is a disconcerting moment in life when you realize that Mom is not as young as she used to be twenty years ago. Perhaps she is retired now and has more doctor appointments on her calendar than you are really prepared to acknowledge. Nevertheless, the facts of life are looming, and at some point, she is going to require some help handling her finances, healthcare, and living situations.

You might wonder if Mom has done some planning of her own, encourage her to get it done or you may be considering talking to an estate planner yourself, for her benefit. In any scenario, it might be time to simply ask her.

Planning together benefits everyone

Many families struggle to open the lines of communication where money and estate planning is concerned. The family structure of relying on the older generation gets flipped upside down, and it often results in all parties feeling awkward and unsure of their roles.

Mom may have very particular ideas about how she would wish to live out her remaining years, whether in her home, with one of her children, or in an elder housing situation. The not-so-young kids may be unprepared for welcoming Mom back into their daily lives.

By talking about expectations, wishes and the reality of available funds, when the move has to be made, action can be taken without further emotional disturbance. Instead of struggling through the surprise of sudden demands on time and money, everybody will be able to focus on the well-being of the entire family.

Be prepared for the future

The truth is that estate planning involves more than documentation for powers of attorney, living wills, health care proxies or trusts. Reality is that there are many everyday wrinkles that need to be worked out too. For many, this involves figuring out if mom will live with you.

If Mom does want to move in with you, having a plan in place allows you to rearrange the home for everyone's comfort before she is knocking on the door. If her savings are not as large as you anticipated, having the knowledge in advance that you will be supporting her financially gives you the time to make the necessary changes to meet the entire family's needs.

Smoothing over the worst of times

Estate planning also includes working out the details for final expenses, including funerals. However, a solid plan does include the things mentioned above, those health proxies and related estate planning tools, plus practical things such as automated payments and information about the status of loans.

If Mom suffered a debilitating stroke, knowing in advance who her health proxy is, what her wishes are and where important documents are located offers you the chance to spend more time supporting her through a difficult recovery, instead of sifting through file cabinets and talking to lawyers.

It is about being a family

When you were a child, Mom was always planning your favorite meals, kissing boo-boos, and keeping you happy and safe. As you aged, you built your own life as the mother for your own children. But now it is time to discuss the reality that Mom is still part of your world, and you are part of hers.

Open conversation about estate planning might be difficult, but ultimately it gives everyone a little more confidence when thinking about the future.

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