BY JOE BRISBEN
In the last few months, several people have told me that their elderly parents have reached a point where they have trouble caring for themselves, and they’ve asked for advice on what to do to help them.
This situation has happened so often that I have taken steps to pave the way for my children when I start to acquire a few bats in my belfry. I have settled on one child to be my primary caregiver, but I have made certain that my other three children know what is happening and are involved.
Fortunately, I have had several elderly relatives who were cared for by my parents, so I have profited by their experience. Also, there is a plethora of material available from insurance companies and my professional organization, the Financial Planning Association.
Check out its website at www.fpanet.org. It has a thorough checklist under the heading “Is your estate in order?”
But the example that I think about the most and the one I tend to follow concerns my father. Pop was a cantankerous, demanding person. Fortunately, he married my mother, a clever person who knew how to manipulate him, and she rarely failed to do so to the advantage of herself, my brother, and me.
From her, I learned that Pop always had to feel that he was making all the important decisions—that he was, as he put it, “in the driver’s seat.”
Fortunately, he also listened to good advice from his attorney and his accountant. For that reason, 40 years ago, he and my mother made wills and placed all their property in a revocable trust.
A revocable trust allows an estate to avoid publicity and provides for distribution of assets sooner than probate does. If the decedent has been the trustee and has named a successor trustee, the successor, after presenting the proper credentials, takes over the trust and is usually in a position to distribute assets in three to five months. By contrast, probate usually takes more than a year.
After my mother died, Pop had his will and his revocable trust rewritten to suit the changed circumstances. He named me his executor, with his old business partner and his bank as successors.
At the time of his death Pop lived in Arizona, but he still had assets in Oklahoma. By putting most of his property in a revocable trust, we avoided having to file for probate in two states.
He granted me power of attorney, established a living will, and deeded his body upon death to a medical school.
While he was going to high school, Pop served an apprenticeship to an accountant in an Oklahoma City bank. He loved keeping financial records and track of his assets, and he would review them with me whenever I visited him.
From 1933 until 1951, my folks ran a furniture and appliance store in my hometown, Enid, OK. My mother had majored in art at Phillips University. In the store, she developed herself into an interior decorator.
As a result, our home was a showplace of elegant furniture and tasteful decorations. One of the great joys my father and I had was going through the house and listing all the furnishings, appliances, and other belongings.
Then he, with some suggestions from me, decided to what child, grandchild, or friend each item would go. I think that task brought us closer together than any other joint activity in which we ever engaged. He really appreciated me doing that work for him.
If you are planning on putting your estate together or helping a parent do it, contact your attorney or accountant. If you feel the need for a certified financial planner, call me or check out the Financial Planning Association’s website. It outlines an interview process that is impressive and thorough.