How You Should (And Shouldn’t) Talk To Family Members About Estate Plans

Author

Rocky Mountain Elder Law

Posted on

Oct 05, 2022

Book/Edition

Colorado - Denver Metro

Estate plans are love letters to your nearest and dearest. Having an estate plan means that when you die, your family can grieve, free of the burden of challenging decisions. I believe that people are never too old and never too young to start an estate plan, but they might be too late. If you know that a loved one doesn’t have an estate plan in place and you think they should (and really, everyone should), here are some tips for talking to them about it in a constructive way.

Do

  • Emphasize that this is a loving thing they can do for you and the other members of your family. Knowing what they want at the end of their life and afterward will relieve you and your family of hard decisions.
  • Explain that an estate plan is more than just a Will, and these documents don’t just apply after death. Powers of Attorney and Living Wills come into effect when someone is still alive but unable to make decisions for themselves. Neither the Medical Power of Attorney, nor the Financial Power of Attorney survives after death.
    • A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows someone else (an agent) to act on your (the principal’s) behalf. There are two types of Power of Attorney:
      • Financial Power of Attorney: This involves the management of financial affairs. This document is critical in avoiding the financial exploitation of an older person. Instructions within it can also help pay for care.
      • Medical Power of Attorney: This gives the agent the power to make medical decisions on the principal’s behalf.
    • Living Will: This allows the agent under the Power of Attorney to know exactly what someone wants in certain situations, such as what medical treatment or other care they would or would not want if they become too sick to speak for themselves. Unlike a Will, which only springs into effect on death, a Living Will applies when the person is still alive. Nowadays, there are also specific conditions around COVID mentioned in the Living Will.

These documents smooth the way in difficult situations and mean that not only does your loved one know their wishes will be carried out, but also their family doesn’t have to second-guess what they would want. It leaves no room for uncertainly or family arguments.

If there isn’t a suitable person within a family to be the agent, or there is the potential for family arguments around who the agent should be, you can find a third party to be an agent. I work closely with affordable third parties who can be agents in these circumstances. These are independent, bonded third parties who are neutral and can step in to help families get their ducks in a row.

If you are going to be the agent of a Power of Attorney, a conservator, or a guardian, make sure you fully understand the responsibilities of the role and seek legal advice to ensure that you are following all of the rules correctly.

Don’t

  • Do not force your family member into creating an estate plan, or any of the documents within it. None of this should be done under force or coercion.
  • Do not make it seem like creating an estate plan is a way to get access to that person’s money, or get control of it. This could make them very resistant to the idea.
  • If you are the agent of a Power of Attorney, guardian, or conservator of a family member, do not use any of the funds available to that person for your own benefit – it is for their benefit alone.
  • Do not let your family member fall prey to financial exploitation. Unfortunately, it’s something that I see all too frequently. Be alert for signs of bullying, coercion, or isolation of the older family member. These are common signs that someone might become vulnerable to financial exploitation. 

If you would like to talk to us about estate plans, please call us on 720 457 4573.

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Local Services By This Author

Rocky Mountain Elder Law

Probate 651 Garrison Street, Lakewood, Colorado, 80215

Rocky Mountain Elder Law is passionate about protection and justice for vulnerable people. Attorney Kate Silburn specializes in helping older and disabled people who may be at risk of, or who have experienced, some kind of exploitation.She uses all the tools at her disposal to fight for them, including estate planning, probate, probate litigation, and guardianships and conservatorships.Kates credentials of a Masters of Divinity and Juris Doctor, as well as her role as a hospice chaplain, give her unique insight into the challenges facing older people at the end of their lives. She has seen what happens when the right protections are not in place and is dedicated to advocating for vulnerable people.Rocky Mountain Elder Law LLC serves Colorado's Front Range and is available to support families in the Denver Metro area.Giving families peace of mind by protecting their legacy

Rocky Mountain Elder Law

Elder Law 651 Garrison Street, Lakewood, Colorado, 80215

Rocky Mountain Elder Law is passionate about protection and justice for vulnerable people. Attorney Kate Silburn specializes in helping older and disabled people who may be at risk of, or who have experienced, some kind of exploitation. She uses all the tools at her disposal to fight for them, including estate planning, probate, probate litigation, and guardianships and conservatorships. Kate's credentials of a Masters of Divinity and Juris Doctor, as well as her role as a hospice chaplain, give her unique insight into the challenges facing older people at the end of their lives. She has seen what happens when the right protections are not in place and is dedicated to advocating for vulnerable people. Rocky Mountain Elder Law LLC serves Colorado's Front Range and is available to support families in the Denver Metro area. "Giving families peace of mind by protecting their legacy".