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How do I talk to my parents about planning for when my father’s gone?
October 18, 2005 12:08 PM   Subscribe

How do I talk to my parents about planning for when my father’s gone?

My situation. My Dad’s in his mid 70’s and my mum is 60. Both live in the UK. My father has worked all his life, with a small, non-incorporated business that, while not very profitable, through his own grit, has kept a roof over our heads, and sent us to college, provided for the family, all of which I’m eternally grateful for.My father continues to work, running the business every day. The (business_assets-debts) sum if the business were sold (or had to be sold) is probably not a large sum of money. The (nice, if slightly-falling-apart) house is paid for, but my folks don’t have much in the way of savings.

My mum was a housewife, raised us as kids, and due to various ailments (manic depression, diabetes, cardiac issues to name just a few) has never worked for income before, and is relatively poorly now. My father does some work around the house, but my mum is too ill to do manual work. Both I and my brother have left home and are in relatively poorly paying jobs that just keep us afloat. I’m in the USA, my brother in a different part of England. Neither of us will be able to move back home for extended periods of time.

My dad is relatively healthy for a man of his age, and he’ll probably outlive us all through sheer stubbornness! There’s no getting around the fact that he’s old. Statistics are not in his favour: the older you get the more likely you are to die!

My mum is not financially astute, and obviously tremendously emotionally sensitive to the topic - she is easily upset. My father has made plans, but hasn’t talked about them.

I want to make sure that
a) my mum is provided for by my fathers plans
b) that she isn’t ripped off by people with the money she’s left with– she’s very trusting and has a large netowrk of friends that may be good/benign or maybe inept/malicious etc.
c) she is looked after without going into a ‘home’

My questions:

1) How do I bring this up? My dad is of the ‘stiff-upper-lip’ breed when talking about this stuff.
2) What advice do you all have for our situation? Things to do? Things my folks and I should talk about if I finally get to talk about this stuff?


A long question I know. Partial answers are fine.....Thanks.
posted by lalochezia to Human Relations (9 answers total)
 
Your dad may be stiff-upper-lip, but he's probably prepared to discuss it. Just ask him, flat-out. "Dad, obviously you're no spring chicken. My brother and I are concerned about mom's well-being if or when you die." Your dad may say something like "don't worry about us," to which you respond "look, obviously we are worried, and if you want us to stop worrying, you'll have to explain in detail what you've done to provide for mom. Otherwise, it's something we need to start planning for."

It sounds like he's a tough old guy. He can take it.
posted by adamrice at 12:27 PM on October 18, 2005


death is something that can happen regardless of age. i have already informed my parents what to do with my body and my stuff when i die (though informal). it wasn't something that was fun to talk about, but necessary.

in your case, maybe you could bring up like a topic "when i die, these are things i like to be done..." then say "do you guys have anything you would like me to do?"
posted by grafholic at 12:50 PM on October 18, 2005


I'm going through some similar issues with my parents, who (as I was recently shocked to discover) don't even have a will. In my case, I've found that appealing to their parental instincts of taking care of their children has worked best -- something along the lines of "I know you wouldn't want us to worry about any additional issues when the time comes, and you know we [the kids] will want to make absolutely certain all your wishes are followed. What can we [the kids] do now, and what do you need us to know, so that we can be sure we're doing what you want?"
posted by scody at 1:01 PM on October 18, 2005


I concur with adamrice, and would expand that while he may not be interested in discussing it with regards to his own fate, I think that if you bring up the issue of your mother and your concern that she be taken care of he'll be better disposed. A simple "I'm not trying to meddle, but I want to be able to help her if need be and it would be easier to do so if I knew what I'd be helping with."
posted by phearlez at 1:11 PM on October 18, 2005


My mum was a housewife, raised us as kids, and due to various ailments (manic depression, diabetes, cardiac issues to name just a few) has never worked for income before, and is relatively poorly now.

Regarding being looked after, she should be okay. She'll be claiming a widow's pension, as well as incapacity benefit and probably income support. This adds up. She won't need to pay council tax if she's on incapacity benefit, so living in the house should be okay if her bills are within her means. If there are no large debts, and she's truly incapacitated, money shouldn't be a major worry if she simply wants to keep the same lifestyle.
posted by wackybrit at 1:17 PM on October 18, 2005


The only way to discuss these things is openly, without using a lot of euphamisms. People die. Plans should be made before they die to make sure those they love are taken care of.
posted by ColdChef at 1:45 PM on October 18, 2005


wackybrit, don't forget she's bipolar.

I have a friend who has mental issues-nothing all that bad but enough for her to be on disability. She got a rather sizeable inheritance when her father died about a decade ago. Now most of it if not all is gone because of a)unscrupulous relatives/advisors who ripped her off and b) her own spending issues, part of her disorder.

She possibly could need a guardian to prevent something similar happening. There are lots of predators out there looking to separate widows from their money. I have seen that in action too and it aint purdy.
posted by konolia at 1:58 PM on October 18, 2005


The only way to discuss these things is openly, without using a lot of euphamisms. People die. Plans should be made before they die to make sure those they love are taken care of.

Coldchef: Well, sure, I totally agree with this. Problem is, some of us have parents who don't seem to agree -- they don't want to discuss it openly, and/or they don't even want to make plans. My parents, for example, don't have a will (and until a month ago actively refused to speak to me about any matters relating to their deaths), despite the fact that they are both in their mid-60s, my dad's got an illness that almost killed him 5 years ago, they own their own business (which brings up rather complex financial issues), and they're planning on retiring soon. I've literally spent years trying to get them discuss even the most basic issues of planning, only to be told in very clipped tones that there was nothing to worry about and I should stop talking right this very instant about death, please.

posted by scody at 3:24 PM on October 18, 2005


that she isn’t ripped off by people with the money she’s left with

If you want to protect her that way, you're going to have to convince your father that his will should provide for a trust of some sort, with a trustee (you or someone else he is comfortable with, and hopefully has some financial skills as well as being honest), rather than letting your mother inherit his money.

But I'm not sure how easy it is (British law) to disentagle property of a married couple. In the United States, in general, if the property is in both names (a house, joint bank account), then I don't believe it's possible to essentially remove the surviving spouse - instead, the money or property automatically goes to him/her. In other words, even if you get your father to agree to a trust, there may be issues that prevent much of value from actually going into it.

I suggest talking to a lawyer (in the U.S., this would be called "family law" or "estate planning") about options that your father might have, or better yet, get your father to agree to accompany you to see a lawyer about this.

Alternatively, I suppose, your father's will could strongly urge your mother to put her money and property into a trust, and even suggest the name of a trustee, and then you could try to persuade your mother to follow what the will suggested.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:49 PM on October 18, 2005


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