Elder planning and joint accounts save a lot of stress for us younger'uns
So as my father has his (probably) last night on earth, I have a little straight forward advice for my peeps who might have older parents.
Although I work in counselling and deal with resistance all the time, I am no wizard for knowing this - my good friend at work lost her dad last year and had many good ideas that have really helped out this year.
If your parents are 'getting up there':
- ask them to do a simple will so there is no confusion about what should be done 'just in case.' "Just so we know we are honoring your wishes." Only a couple hundred $ for a will and it makes the lawyers and institutions behave. Especially if you have an 'interesting' family situation - make sure things are written down before you discover there is another sibling in Belize.
- consider power of attorney. And DON'T approach this as 'I will get to control your affairs' which will make the elder resist bitterly. Look at it as 'I will be your flunkey' ie: do your banking for you, pay your Autopac for you, sign things for you so you don't have to. Seniors DO NOT like giving up control... but they don't mind seniors discounts and sucking up - so note that it puts you not in control but in the SERVANT role. In fact, if they do the power of attorney at the same time as the will - DON'T use it for awhile. Let them get used to the idea. And then one day when they complain they can't get to the bank, offer to do it for them. Let them control how soon you start doing things for them.
- propose a Health Care Directive (living will). It's just a form that says - in case they cannot speak for themselves - you can honor their wishes. http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/livingwill.html Again, this is not about taking control but - "just in case, like Mrs. ABC your know after her stroke" - it allows the proxy person to make decisions in case the person can't. Otherwise, the doctors and hospital will make decisions that you clearly would not want. Having the Power-of-Attorney and HCD made the hospitals be WAY more helpful with care of the parents these last few months.
- one of the smartest things for estate planning is having JOINT BANK ACCOUNTS. If the parent adds the child's name to the parent's accounts, then you can do the banking for them, pay expenses, and not have to probate things as much, because if one person passes on, the account still stays active. Again, if they add you to the account and you get your own bank card/cheque book - maybe let the parent hang on to it so they don't worry any transactions are done without their consent. Soon enough, they will hand it to you and say 'could you pay this bill and deposit this for me and bring back $40 cash dear' while they watch Wheel of Fortune.
- funerals arrangements. This is more about listening than asking. If they talk about going to a funeral, ask them about what it was they liked. They may say something like 'I would never want to be cremated' or 'I would love to be sprinkled in the ocean' or 'I don't want a service at all'... and you have your marching orders. You don't have to 'what if' 20 times or get specific details unless they want to give them. If they say 'I like Old Jerry's tombstone' - take that as a suggestion. After my mother passed, I found an old funeral service paper with two passages underlined - the exact ones we had just used for her service the week before... so it is good to know what a person likes. If they say 'it doesn't matter', then it shouldn't matter to you more. If they are a very specific person, they won't mind writing it down or dictating it to you.
Last year at this time, both my parents were rather healthy and active - and they spent a lot of the winter cooped up because they couldn't get out to do their affairs. In the spring we arranged all this and it has been such good timing as they were only hospitalized in the summer. A simple conversation with you - or perhaps a trusted person in their lives they can bounce the ideas off of - and you'll be saving everyone a lot of stress in the long run.