We all know that there’s inevitability about death, but most of the time we try not to think too hard about it. However, when the inevitable begins to happen and one of your family members embarks on the last stages of life, there is plenty that you can do to help with their financial affairs.
The main thing to remember is to be prepared. Even if your family member hasn’t thought through all the implications, you can be a great help in sorting out affairs and being there when needed to provide support that will be appreciated.
Medical and care costs
These are expensive, so it pays to think ahead in order to be able to pay any costs. Long before the last stages of life approach, you could work with your family member to make sure that insurance for any medical costs relating to aging and illness are sufficient to cover the financial outgoings. If you think that there may be shortfalls ahead, it would be sensible to put regular money into a savings account in case they are needed. The same savings account could also make a contribution to care home costs, so it’s a good idea to research weekly costs to get an idea of what may be needed.
Of course, not all family members in the last stages of life necessarily need to go to a care home. It depends on the family circumstances, and many older people would prefer to avoid the option if it’s possible. Nevertheless, it is one of the planning options to be considered.
Drawing up a will
Making a will should never be neglected. Why? Because if a family member dies without one, it means that they have died “intestate”, and that is likely to bring a whole lot of problems that you don’t need at a difficult time for everyone. When someone dies without a will, what happens to how their property is distributed depends on the intestacy laws of whichever state they live in – so your family member’s bank accounts, real estate, securities, and other assets will be dealt with by the state, rather than the wishes of the person who has died.
It’s not expensive to draw up a will, though if your family member has wide-ranging assets, you should advise that a lawyer works on it. This ensures that your family member’s wishes are respected and carried out. You could also discuss what sort of service they would like when they have passed.
Taking care of the finances
Some people think that older people are incapable of handing their financial affairs as they near the end of their life. That’s a sweeping generalization taking no account of the life that people have lived before. Yet there are times when older folk need some support with tying up their financial affairs, especially if they are very ill or suffering from dementia.
You can help by talking about what your family member is comfortable with you doing for and with them, preferably before it becomes difficult for them to do it for themselves. It can be a great comfort to know that support is there. You should also be aware that there are some unscrupulous people that may attempt, and succeed, in using finances over which they have been given control, to use them for their own gain. It’s an unpleasant potential side effect of what is meant to be a genuine offer of help and financial organization.
Talking with your oldest family member about how they would like to be remembered is a good way to help demystify the taboos around death. Talking works. You can find out if they prefer cremation services or burial in a graveyard of the church they have always attended. Such discussions move everyone on to bringing life full circle. You and your family member are working through the last stages of life in preparation for what is to come. Knowledge is strength, and though the situation is never easy, it can be prepared for.
Preparing for the end
Helping your much-loved family member prepare for the last stages of life is a gift given freely and can be of enormous benefit to peace of mind, for both of you. Take the time to organize effectively and you’ll find it much easier to deal with in the future.