Don’t be afraid to talk about wills and POAs
There is no easy way to approach a conversation with an aging family member – especially a parent or grandparent – regarding their will (and subsequent wishes), the executor of said will, or to whom they have given power(s) of attorney (POA).
It can be so difficult that the topic and subsequent discussion is far too frequently avoided.
While not being an expert on legal matters surrounding wills and POAs, I do have a lot of experience working with seniors and have seen the stressful situations caused by family members being in the dark on these details.
It’s an issue that needs major improvement on both sides of the coin.
On one hand, those who are either on the senior side of the aging process or are already elderly won’t willingly bring up matters of illness or death. They also may deflect or change subject matters should someone else mention it.
Often, they have wills and POAs in place but haven’t told anyone other than their lawyer what their wishes are.
On the other hand, the children or grandchildren are loath to bring up the topic as to not upset their loved ones or because they don’t want to face mortality head on.
But one way or another, these conversations must be had. It’s important for the elderly family members to feel confident in the execution of their final wishes, and it’s equally essential that the family knows what their loved ones want.
Important subtopics when discussing wills and POAs include plans about who will handle financial decisions, who will handle health decisions, and more.
What happens if there is an accident or illness that causes cognitive abilities? Does only one person have the power of attorney, or are there multiple POAs?
Some people will name one family member to be responsible for banking and other finances, while choosing a different person to make vital healthcare decisions. And, if there is more than one POA, they may need to make decisions together.
For instance, if mobility devices are needed, does the person have enough funds available to buy them? Or will family members need to help pay for the necessary equipment?
Everyone in a family or circle of care should know knows where one’s will is, who has been listed at emergency contacts and who has the POA title. It may be an awkward, even challenging conversation, but it is absolutely vital.
Those who have aging family members that don’t know what the situation is regarding wills, POAs, and emergency contacts, needs to have a sit down sooner than later.
Make a cup of tea or coffee (or their favourite beverage) and ask a few basic questions.
Keep in mind, depending on the individual, the answers may not come all at once. It may take several chats over an extended period of time (think months not days) to get things straightened out. Don’t be discouraged if there is initial resistance and don’t be afraid to keep bringing up the topic until the matter feels settled.
Perhaps try opening with an easy question about who the emergency contacts are and where the list is, then bring up the will or POA topic as the situation feels more comfortable.
No matter how this important topic is approached, the conversations must happen for everyone’s peace-of-mind.
More information can be found at https://www.ontario.ca/page/make-power-attorney