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Discussing Death and Dying

By Sheila B. Giglio

A morbid topic? Of course! But for our older clients and their adult children in the sandwich generation (young children of their own and aging parents) having the discussion can be extremely beneficial to both the elder and their children. The issue is, of course, how to get started. It isn’t as if you meet your family for breakfast and say: “Hey, let’s talk about death this morning.”

Try a better approach and arrange for a family meeting with a trusted advisor such as your estate planning attorney or a spiritual leader.

An older client of mine recently asked me to sit with her and her family to discuss her planning wishes, including her wishes around how she wanted to live the remainder of her life and how she wanted to be able to die when the time came. She felt strongly about wanting to direct the circumstances surrounding her death and wanted to convey her thoughts lovingly to her family. In our meeting she told them about her desire not to be kept alive if she could not live independently. There was a good amount of laughter, and a few tears, as my client’s children listened to their mother express her intentions around how she wants to live the remainder of her life and, when the time comes, pass from this life with grace.

An added benefit of the family meeting was that my client was able to confirm for her family that her overall estate plan was updated. They discussed who was best to serve in the roles of Personal Representative under her Will, Trustees of her Trust, and agents under her Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. Everyone felt reassured that “Mom’s” assets would pass efficiently and in accordance with her wishes.

The meeting left Mom feeling in control and relieved. She felt good about telling her children what she wanted. Mom was getting organized and felt assured that her matters were in good order. In short, she was still caring for her children as she had always done.

As far as the adult children, they all heard the same thing, and can move forward feeling comfortable and unified implementing Mom’s medical wishes when needed. Plus, they know that Mom’s attention to organizing her financial affairs now will reduce the burden and expense involved with the distribution of her assets after she passes away.

If you have questions about estate planning, probate, trusts, and tax matters, please contact one of Conn Kavanaugh’s experienced estate planning lawyers.

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