Three Excuses Older Adults Give for Not Discussing Estate Planning
Sometimes the first call to an elder law attorney comes from a person who is not a senior at all. In fact, adult children often call seeking help for their parents or grandparents. Sometimes this is because the aging parent is physically or mentally unable to make decisions or take on the difficult process of seeking out legal assistance. But in many cases the reason is subtler – the senior is procrastinating. Older adults often put off estate planning and end-of-life decisions. The excuses can vary widely, but in general, here are just a few of the common excuses for not discussing estate planning.
Excuse #1: I don’t want to create problems with the kids
Some seniors have heard horror stories about adult children fighting over an inheritance or vicious battles over wills. Seniors may fear that if they speak with their children and other relatives about their intentions, somehow this will create a situation where the heirs will begin fighting and trying to take advantage of them. Although this is sadly true in some extreme cases, rarely does simply discussing the options and one’s wishes actually cause a problem. In fact, the opposite is more often true. Waiting until after death to find out how a person has disposed of his or her estate can be quite a surprise and lead to more disputes than proactively discussing it in advance.
Excuse #2: It doesn’t really matter; my kids know what I want
While one extreme is worrying that any discussion will lead to problems, this extreme presumes that the heirs all get along so well that there is no need to discuss planning. Both are mistakes. Even though adult children may get along fine, it ignores many of the real reasons for estate planning. It is not just about preventing disputes; it is also about avoiding over-taxation, ensuring financial security for heirs, maintaining eligibility for public benefits and nursing home care, and avoiding abuses and exploitation in later years. Further, even if the kids do know what the senior wants, actually carrying out those wishes can be very expensive or even impossible if the estate is not set up properly.
Excuse #3: I just don’t want to talk about it
The last reason can be boiled down to a wide range of emotional reasons. Largely, as people age they may begin to realize their own mortality. As we face the prospect of dying, it can become very challenging and emotionally exhausting to sit down and discuss how things will go when we are indeed gone. This fear can lead to avoidance and even a strong desire to not discuss the matter with anyone, even an attorney. Adult children may not fully understand why their parents are unwilling to talk about their wishes, and they may even become irritated or impatient with their aging parents.
Sometimes, adult children try to lead the discussion. Ultimately, however, it is the senior’s right to make these delicate decisions when he or she is ready. An experienced Florida elder law attorney can explain the options and help you feel more at ease about your final wishes, while ensuring that you stay in the driver’s seat. If you need help facing the tough decisions, contact an experienced local elder law attorney at the Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group in central Florida with offices in The Villages.