Tonight’s post was written by our Georgia Elder Law, Probate Law and Wills, Trusts and Estates Lawyer, Steve Worrall.
Georgia estate planning and elder law attorneys often find themselves advising adult children of the elderly on the intricacies of managing their parents’ finances. While it may seem straightforward at first, there are many details and difficulties that can get in the way.
There are so many things to coordinate, and often the parent is less than helpful in the process. Being somewhat prepared and having access to an estate lawyer are two of the ways you can help avoid some of the more common pitfalls, such as:
Memory Loss – Memory loss is prevalent among the elderly, and it’s actually one of the big reasons that adult children are called in to take over finances. Unfortunately, it also makes the job that much more difficult because the parent isn’t able to answer important questions such as “How much do you owe?” or “When is this bill due?”
Role Reversal – For the majority of the adult child’s life, the parent has been in charge. Taking over and being firm with the parent can be more than a little uncomfortable. On top of that, it can be frustrating and cause resentment to see the person who taught you so much, no longer following their own advice.
Lack of Information – Your parent may have chosen to be forthcoming about finances with a lawyer, but that doesn’t mean that they want to let you in on all the financial details of their life. Previous generations found it improper to discuss money, resulting in an air of secrecy that can be difficult to break through.
So, how should you approach with these obstacles?
As with so many other aspects of life, the best way to deal with problems is to avoid them altogether. The earlier you and your parent meet with an attorney that you trust, the more likely you are to get the information you need.
As an added bonus, your parent will have the ability to make his or her wishes known in order to offer guidance on how to handle their affairs if and when all of the responsibility is passed on to you. If you wait too long, your parent may no longer have legal capacity to sign documents and make their wishes known. Then your only remedy is to seek a guardianship or conservatorship over them through the probate court. Less pleasant. More costly.
No matter where your parent is, the subject needs to be broached. Again, earlier is better, as they are more likely to understand the importance of what is happening. You may choose to start the conversation by relating it to your own estate planning or by bringing up a situation you heard about recently, such as the death of a celebrity.
A good estate planning lawyer and elder law attorney in Georgia can offer suggestions on how to bring up the subject, as well as how to help steer the conversation in the right direction.
Steve handles our client’s matters in all of our offices, Marietta, Atlanta, Lawrenceville, Savannah, Canton and Gainesville.