As Parents get older (quiet, Daughter), Adult “Children” should gain some understanding of each Parent’s Personal Wishes, such as: who will the Executor be; Health Care Surrogate (to make Health Care decisions when they cannot) and do they have a DURABLE (very important word) Power-of-Attorney (to handle Mother or Father’s affairs when they cannot). Regular P/A’s cease to exist when someone is either temporarily or permanently incapacitated; however, a “Durable” continues to be in effect. (Normally, attorneys draw them up.)
Last July, I wrote the linked Blog Post, regarding your getting a handle on your Parents’ Affairs, and knowing when you or another Family Member needs to step-in, https://thetruthoncommonsense.com/2013/07/15/checking-on-your-parents-affairs/. This Topic becomes more and more important as they grow older. Also, oftentimes the changes in mental or physical capacity are difficult to notice by someone who sees them regularly: so, count on Family or close friends who only do so on an occasional basis.
Besides the obvious, more basic points noted above, it would also be good for “Children” and Grandchildren to also catch-up on the Personal Side of the of things. The linked column, by Andrea Coombes, in the Wall Street Journal, lists some valuable questions to ask either Mom and/or Dad, http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/SUN_-A001.pdf.
Most columns on this topic deal with the Estate, Health Care and Financial issues regarding the Elderly; however, Ms. Coombes’ approach is more oriented toward your keeping Family History alive, often-told stories and Mom and Dad’s preferences for eventual transfer of whatever assets that there might be.
Just think of the areas that, when its too late, you might have always wanted to ask:
1. Mom (in our case), why did you keep following Dad home? Dad, what were you looking for (if at all) in a Wife? Daughter, just don’t show this to Mom! Please!
2. Mom/Dad, which assets do you want to go to specific people? Think of favorite jewelry, prized tools, artwork, a vintage car, antique furniture or perhaps some other family heirlooms?
3. What was (Great) Grandma/Grandpa like? Historically, who in the Family am I most like? Or, tell us about that wild Aunt Sally or crazy Uncle Harry were like.
4. Depending on the normal Family Protocol, is it OK for us to have a luncheon or reception for the Family’s guests when you pass on? Remember that you will want to, at least, provide some snacks and refreshments for both local and out-of-town guests. Remember that we may very well never see some of them again.
5. In some cases, hiring a Professional Fiduciary (attorney or trust department) to be involved. can be helpful. Sometimes, there might be discord among Family Members–even Siblings. This way, that Professional (who regularly handles such matters, either acting as a Fiduciary or even just as an advisor (Agent for the Fiduciaries(s)) can provide the cover for why some things might need to be done in a particular manner. Make sure that that potential Fiduciary has agreed to be involved in handling the Estate–and reviewed the Documents ahead of time.
6. Mom/Dad, would you like to prepare a Personal Letter to your Executor(s)? For instance, some people may want to make sure that there is a Donation to a Favorite Charity, while others may or may not wish to have any military references at the Memorial Service or Cemetery? This should be suggested to Mom/Dad while they still can make their Personal Wishes known.
7. Once you get into this Discussion, keep it open-ended, take notes or record it and include as many Family member as possible. Be sure to let other interested parties know what transpired.
8. Obviously, you or others in your Family might have other topics or issues to cover, as well.