The Money Talk With Parents

The Money Talk With Parents

The second most difficult talk to have with parents, after the first which is giving up
driving, is the talk about money. It is a difficult and often times embarrassing topic between a child and a parent who is losing the ability to handle finances and may be vulnerable to fraud. Here are some thoughts.

Broach the topic well before mental capacity and judgment are diminished. Say that you want to know that they have taken basic steps, so that if and when they cannot sign for themselves, the other parent or trusted children could sign. Suggest that they see a lawyer who knows what powers a durable power of attorney should include, such as the power to transfer assets between parents, and possibly to children. If their long-time lawyer does not do elder law planning, encourage them to see a lawyer who does. Often it is easier to accept advice from a non-family member, as it is not the “child” seeming to tell the parent what to do. When that initial talk occurs, don’t expect an immediate response. Give your parents time to think about the idea of planning to handle finances. Be brief and don’t belabor the subject.

Controlling ones own affairs is a basic desire of most everyone, so make it clear that
planning in the event of incapacity is not taking away control. When my own mother was alive I had her do all the critical basic documents which everyone needs such as a power of attorney, living will, HIPAA form and will. Even though I do this for a living I was reluctant to bring up more sophisticated legal strategies to keep her in the community and out of a nursing home. When she turned 83 she asked me one day, “what else do you do for your clients?” “Well”, I said, “In your case I would put your home and some of your assets into an irrevocable trust to protect them if you needed long term care.” “Why didn’t you tell me that?” she asked. “I didn’t want you to think I was after your money” I answered. To make a long story short, she did that special irrevocable trust and when she did need care the assets in the trust did not count against her and between VA benefits and Medicaid she was able to stay out of a nursing home by getting care at home until the last year of her life at age 92.

When to broach the subject of planning depends on the physical and mental abilities of
your parents. People with debilitating illnesses such as MS or Alzheimer’s need planning right away. I made my daughters do powers of attorney and living wills when they headed off to Africa to do research when they were in their twenties. They thought that strange at the time, but Halley, now my partner in the law firm, understood the wisdom of planning ahead when she worked on such documents, for Seal Team Six as a Navy JAG Officer.

The money talk is critical to help protect assets from scammers, and to plan for long term care. Approach it carefully and with patience so that your parents or grandparents have the basic tools available if they can no longer handle financial and medical decision making by themselves. Everyone will sleep better at night.
Attorneys Stephen O. and Halley C. Allaire are partners in the law firm of Allaire Elder Law.
Attorneys Stephen O. and Halley C. Allaire are members of the National Academy of Elder Law. Attorneys, Inc.
Allaire Elder Law is a highly respected, and highly rated law firm with offices in Bristol, CT.
We can be contacted by phone at (860) 259-1500 or by email.

If you have a question, send a written note to us and we may use your question in a future column.

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