A Christmas Gift for Your Mother
Christmas shopping for your mother is never an easy task, but as she grows older, finding a gift that she will enjoy and use is nearly impossible.
No more scarves, sweaters, or slippers please! The snuggie from last year still looks fine and those “teas from around the world” have not left her cupboard since the day after Christmas. This year you may want to give your mother a gift she could use and something you know she might not buy for herself. In our Elder Law practice, often the greatest thing we give to our clients and their families is peace of mind. How do we give them that precious peace of mind? We make sure they plan for all the expected and unexpected occurrences that happen in life. So call your sisters and brothers and throw out this idea to them.
Why not get together and buy mom her estate-planning package for Christmas? At first, it might seem a little strange, but from years of experience I can say how relieved clients are when they finally get around to coming in and doing the planning they had always put off. Not only that, your family won’t have to worry anymore about what to do if something happens to mom or dad and decisions need to be made.
Your siblings will want to know what estate planning documents mom will need, but the answer to that is easy. Everyone should have a Durable Power of Attorney, Advance Directives for Healthcare, and a Will or Trust for estate planning. The durable Power of Attorney will allow mom to appoint someone, probably one or more of you, to handle her financial affairs if she no longer can manage by herself. If she can’t handle her financial affairs, you will know who is in charge of mom’s finances.
The Advance Directives for Healthcare has three functions: first, mom will appoint someone to make her healthcare decisions when she can no longer make them for herself; second, mom will state her treatment preferences if she has a terminal condition or is in a state of permanent unconsciousness; and third, mom can nominate the person who will be her conservator should she ever need one. In addition, Connecticut law allows her to set forth specific instructions on what she wants done after she passes (cremation/burial/type of funeral). These documents not only honor mom’s wishes, but they keep potential sibling disagreements to a minimum during these high stress times.
The final part of this gift is a Will or Trust to make sure mom’s treasures, whether big or small, are passed on the way she wants. It is important to have an attorney familiar with Elder Law look at your loved one’s estate to determine what type of instrument, either a Will or Trust, or both, is best for the particular circumstances.
Here is a clever way to wrap this gift. Put a soft pillow with a pretty pillow case inside a box with a gift certificate taped on the pillow that says, “for a Good Night’s Sleep”, along with the date of the appointment with the attorney. Many mothers may worry about the future, but will never take the initiative to make the appointment for themselves. You can combine your resources into one very valuable joint gift for mom. However you package it, the gift of peace of mind is always a good way to say Merry Christmas.