Every family, at some point, will need to have some challenging conversations about finances and planning for caregiving.
Vice President of Caregiving, AARP
Most of us don’t like to think about how our lives will end, so we put off legal paperwork like powers of attorney and a will. Yet knowing what your loved ones want, and having the right legal documents in place, is vital for family caregivers and their loved ones.
So, how do you begin this difficult conversation? Many families find it easier to start a discussion by referencing an article about planning for future care needs (this one, perhaps), or talking about steps they themselves have taken to plan for future care. That can open a window to talk about what your relatives would like if they become ill or incapacitated, and whether they have any legal paperwork already done to reflect their wishes.
It’s helpful to have a goal with your discussions, but don’t be heavy handed. Ask your relatives open-ended questions. Do they want to stay in their home as they age? What financial assets do they have? How do they see their life 10 years from now? AARP’s planning guides for caregivers are a free resource and include template questions to ask and topics that you may need to consider.
Transparency & inclusion
Another key tip is to involve all members of the family in these discussions. Especially when it comes to financial and legal issues, it’s best to be transparent and clear about next steps and responsibilities. Write down all the decisions you make as a family and have every family member sign the plan. A qualified attorney can also help you determine what documents are needed in your state to make sure your relative’s wishes are followed.
Once you’ve started a conversation, you’ll want to check if your family has certain key legal documents prepared.
- A power of attorney names someone to act on your family member’s behalf on financial, legal, and sometimes medical issues. It’s a key tool for family caregivers, as it allows them to pay their loved one’s bills and manage their legal affairs.
- An advance directive, also known as a healthcare proxy or living will, can lay out your relative’s wishes for medical treatment that they do or don’t want to receive. In some cases, this form also designates someone to make healthcare decisions for them if they are not able to do so. You can find advance directive forms for each state on the AARP website.
- Having a will in place ensures that your loved one’s requests are followed after they pass away. It can also help avoid fights or hurt feelings among surviving family members about how any assets are divided.
In addition to finding or creating these legal documents, family caregivers should locate and organize key documents like birth, marriage, and death certificates, insurance policies, pension benefits, and house deeds.
It’s tough to have conversations about a loved one’s finances and how they want to be cared for at the end of their life, but it’s worth it to have that difficult talk. Making a plan before you need it will save your family an enormous amount of stress, uncertainty, and even financial costs.
Additional tips and resources can be found at aarp.org/caregiving.