I read an article published in the Wall Street Journal® titled “The Difficult, Delicate Untangling of Our Parents’ Lives.” The author and his wife were in their 50s and dealing with the challenges of parents too incapacitated to handle their own affairs.
Significantly, the frustration was not that their parents needed help. Most children would consider such help to be an opportunity to repay the sacrifices made by their parents. (However, parents who plan to rely on their children should not underestimate how significant this burden may be).
The article explained how difficult it can be to help parents, especially with the maze of their parents’ financial estate. The author stated it was much like being dropped into someone’s living room and told “Here you go, you’re running the house now.”
It is unlikely we, or our parents, will be immune from the complications of life. For some, that will include caring for a chronically ill or incapacitated parent. At the very least, it may mean handling their financial affairs.
So, what can be done? As this article points out, parents should at least have a “Power of Attorney” in place to give a trusted child (or other person) the ability to handle affairs and talk with the right people when/if that need arises. (Interestingly, the author noted their regret in first attempting to use a form downloaded from the Internet.) In some situations, a trust may be an even safer way to protect a parent’s assets.
Also, the author encouraged children to utilize a “team,” specifically those professionals who can help untangle what may appear to the children to be a quagmire of confusion.
I would add a third point. Parents and children must communicate. Parents need not share financial details. However, names of financial institutions, professional contacts, and priorities should be shared. If the need should arise for children to step in, the children will already have an important reference point.