The signs are subtle. A stumble over the curb – a late payment notice – weeds in the garden – a fender bender. Dad’s health is changing, but he doesn’t want to accept help. Whether it’s the age or the mileage, no one likes to see that their father is not invincible. But sooner or later, whether he wants to admit it or not, your aging dad will need your help.
Aging dads fall into two categories: those who adapt to change even if it means allowing others to help, and those who refuse to give up any kind of control. How can you help, when it becomes clear that Dad needs you, and your roles begin to reverse?
Dads who are able to accept your help may still be a little cautious. Your first discussions need to be about what, if any, estate planning they have done. They may say it’s not time yet to talk about these matters. One father said they’d cross that bridge when he gets to it, to which his child replied “Dad, you’re already on that bridge.” A light touch of humor will help you both.
Start by asking if he has met with an estate planning attorney to have a Will, a Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy and a Living Will created. If not, explain what you have done for your own family and explain why it’s important for you as a father, and for him as a grandfather, to take care of this. Ask if he’d like you to introduce him to your estate planning attorney, or if you have any family members who he would be comfortable asking for recommendations.
Some fathers will be willing to have their adult children go with them to meet with an estate planning attorney. Others will prefer to keep it a private meeting. Either way is fine, as long as a plan is in place. Respect your father’s choice but do keep the attorney’s contact information.
Talking about planning for incapacity is harder for some people than talking about death. The conversation may have already occurred if he has had health issues, but if he’s healthy as a horse, he may push back on this one. It still needs to be discussed.
What resources are available if needed for long-term care? If he owns a long-term care insurance policy, find out where it is so you can access it if and when the time comes. Does his estate plan include a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT) or has any Medicaid planning been done?
You’ll also want to talk with your aging dad about providing information for financial, legal, and medical contacts. This can be a little overwhelming, so it may help to break this into a series of categories. Try setting a deadline for one checklist a week.
This is a basic list of the contact information you’ll want to gather:
Legal and Financial
Estate Planning Attorney, CPA, Financial Advisor, Retirement Accounts, Pension, Social Security, Investments, Checking and Savings, Insurance Policies – Home, Auto, Umbrella
Primary Care Physician, Pharmacist, Ophthalmologist, Any other health care providers, Medicare or Health Insurance Company
Electricity, Mortgage or Rent, Cable, Landscaper, Telephone, Auto Loan or Lease Payments
Social Media, Websites, Streaming Subscriptions
Community Organizations, Homeowner’s Association, Faith Community
These are not easy conversations for many adults, so be patient with your father. It may take a while for even the most easy-going men to become comfortable with sharing this kind of information and disclosing their financial picture. Think of it as an ongoing process rather than one conversation. Use your own experience as a conversation-starter, and if you haven’t yet completed your own estate planning – don’t wait. Contact our office today.