The holidays are a special time for friends and family. We gather around the tree recalling past joyful times and we remember loved ones who are no longer with us.
While we are gathered is a great time to pull loved ones aside and speak with them about your estate planning. If you’ve chosen a loved one to be your agent under powers of attorney or as successor trustee, make sure to let them know so it’s not a surprise if they are called upon to serve. Similarly, if you want someone to serve as the guardian for your minor child, be sure to speak with them about your choice. Make sure that they are ready to take on that responsibility if needed.
In addition to being a good time to discuss your own plans with family, it’s a great time to check in on older or disabled Members of the family. For example, let’s say you’re visiting elderly parents or grandparents for the holidays. Here are some things to consider while visiting. How is their appearance? Does it seem they are keeping up with hygiene? How is their mood? Do they seem isolated or depressed? Are they eating properly? Look in their refrigerator. Does it look like they are storing food properly? Are there signs of undereating or malnutrition? Is their household clean and safe? Do they need any sort of assistive devices?
If your assessment during the holidays isn’t positive, you will want to circle back another time to see if this is an isolated occurrence or part of a pattern. If it continues, you may need to encourage them to consider getting more assistance. This can be a difficult conversation and requires kindness and patience, just like they gave you as you were growing up. If it’s not an emergency situation, try encouraging gradual changes to make improvements in their life.
For example, perhaps you can get them to agree to have someone stop by a few days a week to make sure the place is clean and to fix meals they can reheat. As time goes by, you may be able to increase the number of days or length of the visits. Gradually, you may find they are open to more activity or social interaction, such as a bridge club or other activity. Any sort of group activity will encourage them to stay active, alert, and engaged.
The holidays are a special time for all of us. The holidays are often a time we reconnect with loved ones we don’t see on a daily basis. It can be a great time to see how they are doing, both physically and mentally.
Your presence and assistance in their life may be the greatest gift of all!
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128