Any time you are dealing with a situation that involves personalities and not just numbers there is going to be a need for communication. Estate planning need not happen in a vacuum with the person doing the planning being sealed off from his or her heirs. It can be done that way, and it often is, but this can be a mistake.
Some people are very open by nature and have no difficulty talking about sensitive subjects while others are more private by nature. In addition, it is not uncommon for an elder to share information with family members selectively for practical reasons. For example, if you had an adult child who was always asking for money for one reason or another you may not want to be completely honest with this child about the extent of your assets.
This is understandable, but there are risks that go along with secrecy. One of these sensitive subjects that many people shy away from is that of the loss of cognitive abilities. One out of every eight people who are 65 years of age or older have Alzheimer’s disease, and nearly half of the “oldest old,” those 85 and up, are suffering from some form of dementia.
If you don’t let your family members know the details of your finances along the way they may be placed in a very challenging position if you were to become unable to make decisions for yourself at some point in time. And though we all place a great deal of value on our freedom as individuals, there may well come a time when you really do need the assistance of your family members.
There is no one-size-fits-all simple solution to these delicate personal matters. But with people living longer it may be a good idea to engage in some open and honest communication with your family members about the realities that go along with reaching an advanced age.
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