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Doing Your Own Planning!

Hi Mom! Hope you’re having a great day. This planning message is especially for you today. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. Just take a few minutes to read through this, then give it some thought today.

What made me think about this was a planning meeting I held recently with a family who were struggling to resolve some issues associated with helping their Mom pay for her long term care expenses. Ever since her husband passed away several years ago, she had always handled her financial affairs and had done a good job with managing her business.

Sensible Living

This Mom not only lived within her means, but she actually saved money each month. She knew what money she had, where all accounts and other assets were situated and who she wanted to leave everything to at her death.

She had done a good job with her finances and it looked like she had crafted a 20 year financial plan. But she did not have 20 years of good health left. This Mom suffered an unexpected stroke which impaired her cognitive and physical ability to function. As a result, she may need care at home or in a facility for the remainder of her life.

Her family is left in the terrible position of not only having to figure out and implement her plan without her assistance, but also having to come up with a way to pay for her care. It obviously would have been much better if she had planned in advance.

In our planning meeting, the family was working to determine (1) what type of care their mom would have wanted under the circumstances; (2) where she would want to receive the care; (3) who she would have wanted to be responsible to make decisions for her if she became incapacitated (as is now the case); and (4) what assets she would have wanted to be used first to pay for her care. Since none of this was in writing, all they could do was guess.

Why Did She Wait?

We all know we need to develop a plan, but why don’t we do it? This probably isn’t the first planning message you’ve read. I guess we put it off for a couple of reasons:

  1. Nobody wants to think about it. We know bad things like this can happen but we don’t think they will happen to us.
  2. We (falsely) think we’ve got plenty of time. This lady in question was busy living life and implementing her plan. She didn’t think anything would happen to her and didn’t want to involve the family at this point in the process.

If you are a widow or widower, you may have encountered the same dilemma when your spouse died. It could be that they knew about the family business but you knew nothing about this. You may have had to learn the hard way.

-OR- it could be that you have always handled the finances in your family and knew what needed to be done. The problem with the plan that this Mom in our story had was that her plan was in her head – but not on paper! What happens when you don’t have necessary legal documents or a life care plan and you are no longer available to carry on business as usual?

Planning in Advance

There are several things this Mom could have done differently. The family is hoping and praying that her health recovers to the point that she can take some of these necessary actions, but there’s no guarantee. Capacity is a slippery slope. Messages regarding Planning should never be ignored

Hopefully you have done all of your legal and financial planning and everything is properly in place. If this is the case, Congratulations! You are one of the elite few. If you have done your planning, one of your primary remaining steps is to have a Mom Centered Family Meeting where you go over all of the details mentioned in this planning message with your adult children. It will be very comforting for them to know what decisions you have made and who is authorized to implement your decisions on your behalf if and when you are not able to do so yourself.

However, if you are like the vast majority of Americans who have done no estate or life care planning at all, then you are in good company. If this is the case, your next step would be to contact your Elder Law or Estate Planning Attorney and Financial Advisor as soon as possible and get your plans in place. Please don’t take this planning message with a grain of salt.

Preparing your Planning Message for your Family Meeting

In the meantime, it’s a great idea to take out a pen and pad of paper and begin making notes. A good place to start is by answering some of the questions mentioned in the earlier part of this article. As you go through that you will think of other things you want included in your plan and you will think of other questions you want to discuss with your attorney and or financial advisor.

We wish you the best as you work to get your plan in place before you need it. This is not easy work and sometimes requires difficult decisions. This is probably one of the reasons people put this off. However doing planning as best you can, with the resources that you have available is very important. Your family will later thank you for doing the planning necessary to provide for your care and their peace of mind – even after your incapacity or subsequent death.

Best wishes as you work to craft your plans and communicate your planning wishes to your family.

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