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5 Difficult Subjects to Raise with Your Elderly Parents

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Monday, February 18, 2013

The tough issues of death and dying are hard to bring up with aging parents, but avoiding them may cause major predicaments in the future. According to most sources like FindLaw.com, at least 55% of adult Americans do not have a will. Here are 5 crucial issues to raise: 

1) The Will
The legal will not only covers personal assets but pets and items of sentimental value. Dying without a will means the court divides the estate, not the deceased. Elder-law attorney Christina Lesher of Houston warns: “This can cost thousands of dollars and take months. Even if the deceased told a loved one her wishes before she died, a verbal statement won’t hold up in court. The judge will base his ruling on laws and legal precedents of the state.”

2) Power of Attorney
If a person becomes unexpectedly unable to make important financial and legal decisions, a family member with the power of attorney can legally make those tough choices. If there is no designated power of attorney, a local judge will determine who has the power. Often the decision may be as significant as selling a home in order to pay for long-term health care. Lawyers that specialize in elder law can be found through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys – naela.org.

3) Advance Health-Care Directives
The directives include the living will, which gives resuscitation and other life- support instructions. A health proxy is similar to the power of attorney. A HIPPA release gives a third party access to medical records. Elder-law attorney Christina Lesher: “It’s difficult to make decisions in a crisis, and memories about conversations differ. Having clear, written instructions protects families from becoming embroiled in arguments or, even worse, law suits.” The directives vary by state. See caringinfo.org.

4)  Access to Bank and Investment Accounts
If Mom or Dad suddenly passes away or becomes unable to make decisions, the family may need to access their personal finances to help cover costly health care, a nursing home or a funeral. Most banks have specific documents that must be signed before money can be accessed. A family member must be named the co-owner of the accounts. This is usually the person who has power of attorney.

5) Long-Term Care Insurance
The average annual cost for a private nursing home in the U.S. is $81,000. Medicare doesn’t cover assisted living in most states. Planning ahead with long-term care insurance is the only wise choice. The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (aaltci.org) provides thorough information on plans and policies. 

Consumer's Reports recommends independent agents:

"Get at least four or five quotes from different companies that are highly rated for financial strength by leading ratings services, such as A.M. Best, Fitch Ratings, Moodys, Standard & Poor's, and TheStreet. To obtain multiple quotes, use an independent agent who works with several insurers. You can search for local agents on the website of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America."

Consumer's Reports offers an excellent primer on the subject: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/08/long-term-care-insurance/index.htm  

As does Suze Orman: http://www.suzeorman.com/blog/long-term-care-insurance-update/

Primary source:
Emma Johnson, “5 Tough Parental Talks”, Real Simple, March 2013  

Photo: flowtv.org CC

Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.


  1. Gah, my mom made me "Power of Attorney", it was a really creepy form that took me weeks to sign. Morbid to think about!


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