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Michigan seniors must start conversations about final wishes

Some people understand the importance of planning for their death, while others do not. Even those who understand why it is important have often not taken all the appropriate steps to make sure their final wishes are carried out. According to a study done by the National Endowment for Financial Education, 69 percent of people claim that there are barriers in place that prevent them from discussing their end-of-life care with a family member.

When people try to ignore their estate planning needs, they may end up waiting too long. If people become incapacitated before these discussions occur, peoples' families may not know how they should proceed when the time comes. Medical and financial decisions will need to be made, but people will no longer be able to express their wishes.

To avoid this, people not only need to have a solid legal plan -- including a health proxy, power of attorney and drafting other estate planning documents -- in place, but they should also talk with their families to make sure everyone is on the same page. Experts suggest that people open up these discussions with their children and other loved ones around retirement. In most cases, experts say, that by retirement age people are still able to make long term decisions and their children are old enough to handle the information with maturity.

On the other hand, experts say that the children of seniors shouldn't go too far and try to seize control from their parents. Instead, adult children should offer to help their parents while keeping an eye out for warning signs that their parents are struggling. Signs that it may be time for a child to take over control of their parent's financial affairs include utilities being shut off for nonpayment or bills being scattered around the home.

Source: Deseret News, "Senior silence: Talking about money with your aging parents might be hard, but it's worth it," Michael De Groote, Oct. 1, 2013

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