Family Dynamics: Navigating the Discussion
Congratulations! You’ve made it through Thanksgiving, and Christmas and New Year’s are right around the corner. Whether your celebrations are in person or from afar, the holidays are a time of bringing people together and for reflecting on life. Sometimes, this “togetherness” allows for family discussions that don’t ordinarily take place.
Dad’s been forgetful since his wife died. Does it seem like he’s gotten worse to you?
It seems like Mom has dropped a lot of dishes today. Is it the stress of hosting, or should we be concerned?
Uncle Joe seems really unsteady on his feet, and he lives alone. Do we have anyone checking in on him regularly?
These and other topics come up at family gatherings every year. And every year, Leitch Law has families come in asking if it’s “too late” to get a loved one’s affairs in order. Unfortunately, sometimes time is not on your side. A Power of Attorney needs to be put in place before Dad’s dementia sets in. Uncle Joe’s Advance Medical Directive needs to be in place before a trip to the emergency room.
Rather than sweeping your concerns under the proverbial rug, discuss them with your loved ones. Some families prefer to have these discussions in a straightforward, frank manner: The aging parent has a plan and tells the adult children of what that plan is. The parent makes changes to the plan as needed and informs the children of what the changes are. The children may not agree with the parent’s choices, but everyone knows what the choices are.
Other families find these discussions more challenging. An aging parent prefers to keep medical information to himself, not wanting to “bother” their children with knowledge of his ailments. The parent expresses her end-of-life care wishes to one child, but not to others. Noises are made about giving household items or dollar amounts to certain people, but nothing is ever put in writing. Different family members are told different things over the years.
If either of these family situations sound familiar, or if your family falls somewhere in-between, give your estate planning attorney a call. He or she will be able to help you navigate these discussions. The attorney will give you specific topics to think about and help you break down big decisions into more manageable pieces. If appropriate for the situation, the attorney may sit down with the whole family present to explain the pros and cons of certain planning choices.
Don’t let fear get in the way of having these important discussions. With an attorney’s advice, you can successfully navigate your family dynamics – and still have an enjoyable holiday season.