Procrastination is common, and, for the most part, harmless. When it comes to preparing for your elderly loved one's future, however, procrastination can prove to be a bit more of a concern. Despite the host of reasons why early estate planning is advisable, your elderly loved one may be hesitant to begin the estate planning process because:
- Thinking about mortality and mental incapacity is unpleasant
- He or she believes there will always be time to do it later
- He or she doesn't want to give up autonomy by sharing personal information with someone else
- He or she is unsure how to divide the estate and doesn't wish to cause hurt feelings or disagreement
Reasons to start planning as early as possible
If your loved one has expressed any of these common fears - or even if he or she hasn't - it might be helpful to remind him or her gently of all the reasons why estate planning is advisable now rather than later. Some benefits include:
- Maintaining family harmony
- The ability to sign documents
- Coherent end-of-life decisions
- Changing living care needs
Maintaining family harmony
Rather than causing familial strife, detailed planning as early as possible often helps to prevent stress. If you and other younger family members are unclear about your elderly relative's wishes, stress levels and disagreements are more likely to increase when the time comes. On the other hand, open communication now may help you and your loved ones prepare mentally, emotionally and even financially, potentially saving time, money and relationships in the end.
The ability to sign documents
Once a healthcare professional deems your loved one mentally incompetent, he or she will no longer be able to execute any legal documentation. This, in turn, may lead to a host of other problems, such as the necessity for the expensive and time-consuming court-ordered establishment of an adult guardianship or conservatorship.
Coherent end-of-life decisions
In cases of health problems such as stroke or dementia, or even just in the course of normal aging, your elderly loved one may find it increasingly difficult or even impossible to clearly convey his or her end-of-life wishes. Communicating these desires ahead of time can save you and other younger relatives from guilt and conflict later on by minimizing uncertainty and ensuring that you are carrying out your loved one's wishes.
Changing living care needs
As your loved one's mental health degrades, he or she will likely find it difficult to communicate wishes when it comes to living arrangements. If you and your elderly loved one can decide ahead of time whether a preference exists for residential home care, a skilled nursing center or one of a variety of other options, you can make sure to tailor the variety of options specifically to your loved one's wishes and healthcare needs.
How to get started
These represent only a few of the many reasons why engaging in estate planning sooner rather than later is a wise course of action. When it comes down to it, you will know best how to talk to your loved one about the benefits of estate planning and not waiting until it's too late. If you or your elderly loved one has any concerns or questions, an experienced Texas elder law attorney will be able to provide valuable insight and guidance throughout the process.