As discussed in last week’s post, if your parents do not yet have an estate plan in place consider discussing the possibilities during the month of May. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in the United States more women than men have the disease or some other form of dementia. So what better gift can you give your mother than the peace of mind she will have in knowing her and her family’s future have been protected through estate planning, including a will, trust and powers of attorney?

The consequences of not having an estate plan can be dire if families do not plan for future medical expenses, including long-term care, Medicaid as well as medical directives, especially if a parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Families can be torn apart trying to agree on what mom would have wanted and what is best for her future well being. You can avoid these disagreements and uncertainties by discussing these issues sooner, rather than later.

Starting the discussion with an elderly parent can be difficult because they may not feel they need assistance and may desperately want to maintain their independence as long as possible. Tensions can escalate quickly if you begin the discussion after a problem has already transpired. And it is not advisable to just step in and take control, simply ask if she needs help and make sure she does not feel belittled or demeaned. It is important to approach the issue while allowing her to maintain her dignity.

Once Mom accepts your help, ensure she has the proper documentation, such as a will, trust, healthcare directive and powers of attorney, which allows you to act as an agent on her behalf. A living trust on the other hand, allows you to act as a trustee so you can take direct control of a parent’s financial assets, if the need should arise. An estate planning attorney can help you understand the various options and tools available so you can prepare an estate plan that is right for your family’s individual circumstances.

It takes a lot of courage for someone to accept he or she needs help however; to ensure they are not taken advantage of and have properly planned for all their end of life issues can be one of the greatest gifts you give your parents.

Source: Smart Money, “Talking to Mom About Alzheimer’s and Her Money,” Glenn Ruffenach, May 7, 2012

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