“There’s a fine line between caring and controlling – but older adults and their grown children often disagree on where it is,” writes Claire Berman in the Atlantic. In the course of researching for a book about caring for aging parents, Berman interviewed geriatricians, social workers, administrators of assisted living facilities, and elder law attorneys.
As parents age, their attempts to hold on to their independence can be at odds with even the most well-intentioned suggestions from their adult children. “They are annoyed by children’s overprotectiveness, but appreciate the concern it expresses,” is what Berman discovered.
Wealthmanagement.com comes down firmly on the “Yes” side of the question: Should parents tell their adult children what’s in their estate planning documents? At a minimum, family members should be told:
- where the documents are located
- who are the key advisors (lawyers, accountants, financial advisors)
- what immediate steps they might need to take if an unexpected death occurs.
Losing a parent can be hard enough;there’s no reason to add additional confusion and potential harm by leaving the family completely in the dark. It’s particularly important to have a frank conversation if parents intend to leave unequal bequests. “If there are special arrangements between parents and one or more children, parents must recognize the ‘truth will out’” and it’s their responsibility, not their children’s, to explain why.”
But, even when estate planning considerations have been openly discussed, communication between seniors and their adult children about decisions prior to death can be difficult. Participants in a study at State University of New York at Albany expressed a strong desire for autonomy and connection in relations with their adult children, Berman relates.
“The main contradiction of elderly parents is experienced in terms of individual autonomy and in terms of a need for care by their adult children,” Tetyana Zelinska, Professor of Psychology in Dragomanov University in the Ukraine explains. “But parents should not accept destructive relationships,” she advises. It would be better, she says,to write a letter to an adult child in order to express a clear and explicit desire to build constructive and good relationships.”
At Geyer Law, we agree. Proper estate planning, particularly when the discussions involve both generations, helps put seniors in charge of their own finances, while at the same time sparing loved ones the expense, delay and frustration associated with managing affairs after an elderly parents has become disabled or passes away.
– by Rebecca W. Geyer