Life is a circle; there is an alpha and an omega, a beginning and an end for all of us. Throughout our lifetime our parents have guided and directed us to the best of their abilities. As our parents move through their life circle, many of us find we are now parenting our parents. The challenge is to do so while continuing to respect their dignity, capacity, and control.
This fragile balance can shift suddenly with a change in health, mobility, or capacity. Are you prepared?
My Dad does the driving for errands and appointments. Recently he had a hip replacement so no more driving! Mom is comfortable driving short distances but not outings for a myriad of doctors’ appointments or errands further away from home. This is a game changer for the family and caused one of those ‘family discussions’.
I am grateful that my parents had the courage to open up about changing circumstances and the types of provisions and care they feel they need to allow them to continue their lifestyle and living at home. Finding a short-term solution for their driving needs was relatively easy but understanding how crucial the designation of care will be on an ongoing basis also became a concern.
One of the things needing updating was my parents’ Power of Attorney (POA) created before the 1995 change in Ontario legislation delineating two kinds of POA’s. A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property (CPOA) allows the appointee to manage properties and financial affairs on behalf of the individual. The Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC) covers the specifics of personal care including housing, medical treatment and intervention. These POA documents give someone else the right to act on their behalf and make decisions when they no longer have the capacity. This is certainly the stage at which one should ensure that someone other than your parents are appointed to act as POA for the other parent, as life is unpredictable at best and you don’t want to wrangle with this in front of a judge if they too become incapacitated!
It is also imperative to have a Will and POA properly drafted and witnessed. These important documents are best prepared by a lawyer specializing in wills and estate planning.
Going back to the discussion with my parents, a more difficult part was the review of the preplanned and prepaid funeral arrangements my parents had set up a number of years ago. A tricky subject when they are very much compos mentis and you don’t maybe want to talk about their demise. However, this review allowed all of us an understanding of exactly how they wanted their life celebrated in the end. I thank them for this and will do the same myself!
A year or so ago, one of the best visits I had with my parents was spending time “going through the drawer.” The file drawer contains their investments, insurance, banking and legal documents. We were able to get through most of the files during that afternoon. It was a relief to know what they had, where it was, what they wanted done, and what benefits would continue for the surviving spouse. We identified some gaps and overlaps and were able to implement the necessary steps to consolidate banking, investments and cancel redundant credit and affinity cards. It was particularly important to double check the beneficiary designation on these various documents otherwise these funds would be paid out to the estate with income tax implications.
As my generation finds themselves sandwiched between getting their own adult children fully independent and out the door (really?) and finally have the home and time for themselves again, those dear ol’ parents need some tender lovin’. So a few tips will help you survive the “moments” and keep the optimism in your heart and the lilt in your step.
If you are finding yourself moving into the role of assisting your parents, there are a few important items that can be organized ahead of time:
- Valid current Will covering the distribution of property
- Continuing Power of Attorney for Property and Power of Attorney for Personal Care
- A “living will” or “advance directive” – separate from or as part of your Power of Attorney
- Beneficiary designation on financial documents
- Simplified banking and investments to reduce future tax implications
- Identification of items for pre-gifting so family and close friends can enjoy them in your lifetime
- Prearranged and prepaid funeral arrangements
With a bit of family dialogue you will have the peace of mind knowing that you have organized things to the best of your ability. You will be less likely to spend time worrying about the: would haves’, should haves’, or could haves’. All any of us have is “right now” – that’s why it’s called the present.
If you are not sure where to start or what documents are important to organize ahead of time, I invite you to review the Executor’s Companion Kit. I’d also love your feedback. And don’t forget to leave a link back to your own blog as well using the commentluv feature here on the site.
Until next time,