I began my financial planning career in 1999. I enthusiastically assisted my clients in planning for their future, and I did my best to prepare them for potential calamities. I was in my twenties, and although my life experience was limited, my training taught me how to put the proper strategies in place to achieve goals and mitigate disaster.
Since then, my clients and I have experienced 20 years of life’s ups and downs. For those of my generation, I see their children going to college now on 529 plans we set up when the children were babies. They have paid off homes, had money for college, and filled retirement coffers for the fun times ahead. It’s gratifying when my clients share with me their contentment because of our planning and diligence.
For those who experienced tragedies, they were at a minimum consoled by the peace of mind that comes from having incomeprotecting safety nets and the proper legal documents already in place.
Now, many in my generation have come to the stage of caring for our aging parents. I can remember, 20 years ago, discussing the impact the baby boomers would have on the health care system. I helped clients acquire insurance for their care and arranged for their legal counsel to set up power of attorney documents and trusts to handle their affairs if they became incapacitated.
I followed my own advice and encouraged my parents to have their affairs in order long before it was necessary. Little did I know that my mother would become incapacitated at the age of 63 and deceased by age 64. Fortunately, we had the tough talks and the legal documents drawn up to handle things according to her wishes. That preparation allowed us to grieve rather than scramble to put her affairs in order.
Eight years later, I am facing my father’s dementia. I am surrounded by friends who are rowing in the same boat. Unfortunately, I did not think my parents’ estate was large enough to put into trust. I have a solid financial background and a great relationship with my brother. I thought it would be no problem.
What I had not considered was my father’s semi-lucid state of mind. Sometimes he is frustrated with my brother and at other times he is frustrated with me. He wants us to help him do irresponsible things with his money and as children it is incredibly difficult not to be obedient, despite the risk.
If we had arranged for his money to go into a trust, my father could be mad at the trust officer instead of his children. There would be defined goals for his money established when he was of sound mind. The risk of conflict-of-interest between me and my brother or worry from my father that we are not following his plan would be negligible.
Although I managed to get most of our family financial planning right, not having a trust for my parents is one misstep that has made things challenging at an already difficult time. I am sharing this deeply personal story to help others benefit from a planning strategy that can mitigate the burden of financial management allowing for quality family time in our parents’ twilight.