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SENIOR ADVOCATE

By Liza Horvath

 

Who Gets Dad?

 

In last week’s Senior Advocate column, “Who Gets the Baby?”, I related how Thanksgiving dinner was on the verge of ruin when I brought up how important it is for young parents to have a will that names the guardian of their children – should anything happen to them. After an awkward silence and a “how could you bring up death at the dinner table” look from my husband, a great conversation ensued and, hopefully, the young parents at the table were motivated to get some documents in place.

 

Since it appears that I am on a roll with regard to sensitive topics for family gatherings, here is a suggestion for a Christmas dinner topic. You parents and grandparents, the question to ask over dinner is, “So, which of you children will take care of me when I can no longer take care of myself?” I can predict with some certainty that what will follow is, first, your adult children will squirm in their seats like they are 8-year-olds again; next, they will all look at each other – avoiding eye contact with you and at least one will make an excuse to leave the table. After that, hopefully there will be meaningful conversation.

 

You would be surprised at how many young adults ask how they can surface a discussion with their parents about end of life planning. Similarly, many parents and grandparents feel ill at ease in bringing up the topic - but, if not now, when?  Christmas dinner is the perfect time!

 

The National Guardianship Association dictates that the best end of life planning is “person-centered planning that is carried out in alliance with the person, their family and friends and is grounded in demonstrating respect for the dignity of all involved.” 

 

The key phrase here is “the dignity of all involved.” When discussing end of life planning, some adopt an attitude of “whatever happens, happens,” but this mindset misses the key fact that when “it” does happen, not only is the decedent or ill person affected, but family, friends and loved ones are left with the heaviest burdens. Choices need to be made and often in a hurry with minimal information. Without planning or prior family discussions how can our loved ones know what we would have wanted?  Did mom want to be buried or cremated? If mom is gone and dad becomes incapacitated and unable to communicate, does he want to live in a home where he could be attended to by nurses or live with a child to be surrounded by children and grandchildren?

 

Person-centered planning is the opportunity to state preferences and to control, to the extent possible, what happens should we die suddenly or suffer an accident that leaves us incapacitated. Planning allows us to form a web of both natural and paid relationships within our communities to support us in the manner of our preferences. The real plus is that most of our children want clear guidance!

 

So, as you ask for that second helping of Christmas ham, pop the question. You – and your children – will be glad you did.       

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com

 


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