I was chatting with my girlfriend who is getting ready to retire. As we chitchatted about her plans after retirement she mentioned that her Dad had some real estate holdings that she would be working on to “get things straightened out.” I asked what needed straightening and she gave me a long list of all the things that had been building over the last ten years.
What struck me was the comment she made about having had a conversation with her dad ten years ago. She told him it would be really helpful if he would fill her in on his real estate holdings, his assets, his holdings, and how he wanted things handled in the future. He was 80 at the time. She offered to help him with some of the day-to-day responsibilities. He told her that, while he appreciated the offer, he was fine and didn’t need her to step in and help. She felt he might have even been a bit offended that she had broached the subject at all.
She continued through the hustle and bustle of life and he seemed to be handling things so she didn’t ask any questions. As she was chatting about her retirement, he told her he was glad she would have some free time because he may need her help “getting some things straightened out.” That is when she learned the reality. There are several properties that are in serious disarray, there are a few lease issues, and one property has a hazardous waste issue. She was overwhelmed as he explained how things had just “kinda gotten away from him.” She asked herself, “How did this happen?” He was fine… until he wasn’t.
We are all growing older. As we do, we begin to notice our parents becoming absent-minded. They may lose their keys more often, forget if they took their pills, or scratch their head wondering if they did actually mail that mortgage payment. It is just a part of growing older.
The hard part for both parents, and their adult children, is knowing when it is time to have “The Conversation.” It is a conversation that is difficult for every family.
For the parents, it is an acknowledgement that perhaps the parents are not able to remember all the details anymore. It is an acknowledgement that they need help, that they are not 50 years old anymore. It is a loss of independence. It just doesn’t feel great.
For the kids, it feels intrusive. Our parents are Mom and Dad – the backbone of the family. They always knew exactly what to do in every situation. They have always been in charge. They have taken care of us all our lives through successes and failures, love and heartache; they have always been our rock. Now it feels like we are telling them they can’t handle things anymore and it feels hurtful.
The reality is that we have to learn how to have intergenerational conversations before it becomes an issue. It is important for many reasons.
The Executor of the Trust, or your choice of who will handle your estate in the absence of a trust, needs to be very well versed in how you want things handled when the time comes. They need to know where your assets are held, how you want them distributed, are there any special bequeaths that you want made on your behalf. There are so many important details they will have to handle at the time of your passing, all while grieving your passing. The more information you can give them today, the more helpful they can be when the time arrives.
It is just as important that someone be informed of your holdings, and your wishes, while you are still alive. The world is full of hazards – a car accident, a fall, or a broken leg while skiing or a topple while skydiving – something could happen at any time. If you are laid up in the hospital for any length of time it will be important that someone can handle your affairs. If something worse, or more permanent, were to happen it becomes even more important that someone be well informed on your affairs. If they are walking in blind, with no prior knowledge, it will be all the more difficult.
Knowing that parents want to remain independent and kids don’t want to be intrusive, how do we approach “The Conversation”?
That is the big question.
I meet with families every day. One of the topics that come up in “The Conversation” is retirement funding solutions. Often as the conversation unfolds, it becomes apparent that additional monthly cash flow or elimination of the monthly mortgage payment might provide additional security and financial comfort. My meeting with the parents is frequently at the suggestion of the adult kids who have begun to have the conversation with their folks.
I think the first step is just being aware that all parties are hesitant about broaching the subject. Whether the conversation is between two people, four people, or ten people, just knowing that everyone is feeling a bit anxious helps to calm the waters.
I think a good second step is to be casual. The bigger deal that is made of the conversation, the bigger deal it seems in everyone’s mind. A casual Sunday dinner with some chitchat about the status of your investments, or your long-term care insurance, or your Living Trust, opens the door. It lets the kids know you’re ready to share; and it lifts a huge weight off your shoulders. Let your kids help you. I promise they want to be there for you.
At our firm, The Reverse Mortgage Group, we want to help you to create a life plan. We work toward a plan that will hopefully help you to live out your years in security and comfort. As we review your goals we will look at all aspects of your finances to see if a reverse mortgage would be a good retirement tool to enhance that life plan. If it is, great. If it isn’t, that is okay, too. We feel our job is to provide you with local face-to-face education. I will sit down with you at your kitchen table and help you to make educated decisions.
Photo By Tom Minczeski