As our parents age, we often take on the role of caregiver and confident. We learn things about our parents that we didn’t know before, whether by choice or by divine design. We come to know them in a way that seems both fragile and beautiful, all while trying to manage the overwhelm we feel as new caregivers of our parents. With the role reversal that happens as our parents age, it is difficult for adult children to know what comes next. But if our parents could muddle their way through raising us, we can certainly figure out how to care for them. As time goes on, though, more serious conversations need to be had: estates, wills, belongings, money, lawyers, laws. It’s a lot to think about. Add to that the almost-always present strain that these things put on a family, and you’ve got your hands full. To help you understand what some of these things look like, we’ve put together a list of things you need to know when talking to a lawyer about your parents’ estate.
Who Does What, When?
When of the most important questions to answer a lawyer is about the timeline and responsibilities related to taking control of your parents’ estate. If you have siblings, this should be one of the first things you discuss as a family when the time comes to transfer ownership of the estate. If you are lucky, you won’t have to also mitigate arguments with your siblings about who is in charge of what and when, but it is likely that some discussion may take place. If your parents are ailing, this is just one more stressor you need to deal with, so these conversations are always best held when everyone is healthy and not thinking about funerals in the near future. Life doesn’t always allow for that, of course, so give yourself some space to figure these things out.
How Does the Transfer of Ownership Happen?
Is it just a piece of paper we sign? Do we need to pay for the house? What about taxes? These are all great questions and unless you have the correct answers, you might find yourself making decisions that land you in hot water later. For example, if your family is unsure about selling the family home, someone needs to be responsible for maintaining the taxes, even if it is empty. That said, just because a home is left empty after a family member has died does not mean that it can be left in ruin. If you decide to take over the ownership of the family home, you’ll also be taking over the financial obligations related to the home. It’s a conversation you’ll want ot have with the family and your lawyer about how to go about dividing up the costs or settling it outright.
Who Pays for End of Life Care?
In some cases, insurance or Medicare may pay for portions of end of life care, but there are programs that are designed to help ease the burden of palliative care and ongoing elderly care. Even if your parents are relatively healthy, but need help at home, a CDPAP agency can provide assistance and in-home care for your aging parents. If you need to continue care into end-of-life care, you’ll want to discuss this with your lawyer about who is responsible for payment and how that can be divided up amongst the family.
Talking about end-of-life care or even elderly care is not easy for some families. If there are strains in the family or arguments over money, that can make the situation all the more difficult for everyone involved. Keeping your lawyer in the loop about decisions that are being made can provide you a sounding board for how to go about doing things in a legal and binding way, and if you aren’t sure, your lawyer, or your parents’ estate lawyer is there to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions you need to ask to get the clarification you need to proceed without worry.