March 28th, 2024

Four Conversations to Have with Aging Parents

Many of us avoid discussing financial or health matters with our parents because these conversations can be uncomfortable. However, we believe they are often necessary to protect our parents’ personal and financial well-being.

Here are four specific topics that we recommend discussing with aging parents sooner rather than later, while they still have the physical and mental capacity to put the appropriate protective measures in place:

Name a Power of Attorney. Ensure that each of your parents has a financial Power of Attorney (“POA”) drawn up by a lawyer. This can usually be completed alongside their Will. The POA lets them appoint someone to have either limited or general authority to act on their behalf in financial matters if they are unable to effectively act on their own. The exact method of invoking the POA is specified in the document itself, but it usually involves a letter of opinion from a healthcare professional such as a family doctor or geriatric psychiatrist. The POA must be signed while your parent still has full cognitive capacity, so don’t delay or you may risk facing legal costs and delays.

Name an Attorney for Personal Care. Your parents should name an Attorney for Personal Care who is authorized to make decisions about their personal care in case they become incapable due to illness or injury. Your parents can spell out their specific wishes, such as whether they wish to be resuscitated in the event of a serious medical event, and if a situation arises that is not spelled out in their wishes, then the Attorney for Personal Care has a duty to act in their best interest.

Keep a “Green Sleeve” somewhere accessible. In Alberta, there is a campaign asking elder citizens to place their medical directives and other important information in a green folder on top of their refrigerator so that first responders will know where to find it in an emergency. Although there is no equivalent program in Ontario, you can still follow the spirit of this program by having your parents store copies of their Wills, Powers of Attorneys, medical contacts, and other critical information in a safe place that you can access if needed.

Appoint a Trusted Contact Person on their financial accounts. A Trusted Contact Person (TCP) is a simple safeguard to protect your parents from potential financial exploitation. A TCP does not have the authority to make any investment decisions or financial transactions, but rather is someone that their bank or financial advisor can contact if they detect any unusual behavior that could suggest impaired decision making or fraud, or if they are unable to get in touch with your parents for any reason. It is often suggested that the TCP be a different person than the one named as their POA.

At Cumberland, we believe in holistic wealth management that addresses health, wealth and also family dynamics. Having these recommended elements in place ahead of time will help your parents feel more prepared and in control and can provide clarity for you when it is needed most. If you have any questions or would like professional assistance with these four conversations, please get in touch with us.