Initiating Difficult Family Conversations about End-of-Life Planning

The reluctance or downright unwillingness to talk to parents and grandparents about the difficult topic of end-of-life planning is one that frequently arises in our offices. It ranges from “Mom’s a terrible driver and shouldn’t be behind the wheel, but nobody will confront her” to “Dad’s health is deteriorating, and we need to talk about downsizing, estate planning and preparing a Living Trust, but every time we try to talk to him he blows up.”

One client’s story illuminates the need for planning

“Brian’s” grandfather has been managing his cardiac health for many years–bypass surgery at 60, stents put in at 73 and again at 82. He is now 85 and still in good health, is active and busy. He just rebuilt his garage and a new boat dock, from the ground up, earlier this year.

Recent heart procedure left Grandpa with diminished physical capacity

But Brian’s grandfather recently underwent a procedure to have still more stents installed, and for the first time, he left the hospital not feeling significantly better. Instead of being back to 90% efficiency post-procedure, he’s now at about 50%. Brian and his family have always taken for granted their grandfather’s robust health, but this last procedure has been a wakeup call. They’re aware that their grandfather’s diminished capacity at 85 is going to affect his ability to care for himself, his wife and his property.

It gets more complicated: Meet Grace

Grandpa remarried about five years ago, and “Grace”, 83, is in shaky health. Her kids and other family members all live on the east coast. If Grandpa dies first, his Trust allows Grace to continue to live at his very high-maintenance, hilly, fire-prone, lakefront property for the rest of her life.

While Brian and his siblings are all very fond of Grace, they worry that she won’t be able to care for herself, much less the property, which is fairly rural. If/when Grace can no longer drive, she will be isolated. Brian is his grandfather’s Trustee, and he’s concerned that Grace will then become his responsibility, along with managing the estate.

Time to have “the talk” with Grandpa

Brian knows that he must have this conversation with his grandfather. He’s struggling with how to frame the conversation so it doesn’t sound like he’s trying to get rid of Grace after his grandfather dies. Brian wants to work with his grandfather to develop a workable solution. The sensible thing would be for the couple to downsize now, move to a retirement community that would care for both his grandfather and Grace as their needs require. But ask anyone who’s had to deal with aging family members–the sensible thing can be a tough sell.

End-of-life planning discussions never get any easier

Those with parents and grandparents in failing health need to encourage them to name a Power of Attorney and an Agent for their Advanced Healthcare Directive before they become incapacitated. Our Living Trust package contains both of these documents and thoughtfully assists families to prepare for eventualities. If creating a Living Trust is on your New Year to-do list, contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We are helpful, compassionate and affordable.