By: Lee Anne Davies
Your loved ones need to hear your priorities.
When it comes to financial matters, communications are necessary in order to avoid or at least minimize family conflict and long term feelings of resentment. It is not unusual for families to struggle with questions on finances and to be concerned about impact on the estate but these questions do not need to become major blow-outs if information is shared to help guide their way.
Some families may find it helpful to bring in a third party to support family discussions and even to mediate where necessary. Do not feel embarrassed if an unbiased professional is required to support your particular situation. These are emotional times and you and your family are facing significant issues. The first step is to ensure there is a current inventory of each of your assets and liabilities. Once this is completed and dated, you have a foundation from which to consider some of the more sensitive planning topics.
Financial payment to a family caregiver.
The issue of paying a family caregiver is more likely to arise if at least one of your adult children will be involved in your caregiving. Their support can range from assistance with weekly groceries, transportation to appointments through to more time intensive personal care or coordinating and overseeing professional services. Traditionally much of this support has been provided by the adult daughter who lived closest, but gender-specific-roles are no longer the norm and each family will respond in their unique way. As the disease progresses the need for caregiving and specialized supports increases and family caregiver stress will typically increase.
One way to alleviate some of the stress is to make it possible for the adult child to step away from their own life-pressures such as working full time, or caring for their own home. This can be done by providing financial supports. However, some of the siblings may be unwilling to support this payment because it is going to family who 'should' help out and it also erodes some of the estate's value. Ensure your wishes on this matter are clear with all your children and even consider putting it in writing. The payment amount could be determined by selecting a home care agency in your town and following their pricing model to ensure fair-market amounts are paid. As well, articulate to your family that this care has special value to you and a financial payment is appropriate. This should help avoid any resentment over the use of your money.
Financial management by family member.
Often the family member who is providing the lion's share of caregiving is also the person who will have access to financial records and even hold your power of attorney for both property and for personal care. Access to a certain level of cash flow that will enable daily care is necessary for this individual to support you. However, other family members may become concerned about one person controlling the finances.
Discuss options including quarterly financial reports produced by a financial professional such as an accountant and shared with everyone in the family. This helps ensure equal access to information and can reduce any speculation about how the money is being used. It is a great way to establish regular family meetings and keep communications flowing. If you currently have relationships with financial and legal professionals, ask your family to continue to use these services rather than one family member choosing their own more convenient and preferred service providers. You need to emphasize the importance of consistency and independence in managing financial matters.
You may wish to leave charitable gifts in your estate. In some cases, individuals prefer that their executors select the charity or charities to receive your gift. This is done so that organizations who may be helpful to you and your family during the later stages of Alzheimer's are thanked through your estate. If you are considering this approach you may want to provide some parameters about selecting charities. For example, family caregiving or end-of-life care may be your priorities and knowing this will reduce the likelihood of family disagreement. Use caution if considering having your executors use their discretion in directing charitable gifts from your estate. This approach means that the charitable gift is not eligible as a charitable deduction in your final personal tax return.
Each person's experience with Alzheimer's is unique and so is the response and support from their family. Ensure your legal and financial documents reflect your most current wishes. Do not avoid important and sensitive conversations with your family members. Use third parties to help navigate areas of potential conflict. The goal is for everyone to understand your priorities and act in a manner that is in your best interests.
Brought to you by the Alzheimer Society of Ontario.
This story was originally published in the Alzheimer Society of Ontario's newsletter as well as on alzlive.com, a website for caregivers of people living with Alzheimer's and dementia.
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