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Children should speak about estate planning with their parents

Watching one's parents grow older can be a difficult process. It is not easy to see someone so long viewed as a source of support and caring endure the rigors of aging, especially if that person begins to deteriorate mentally. Unfortunately, many children in Ontario live to see their parents gradually lose the ability to make sound financial decisions. For that reason, it may be a good idea for children to introduce the topic of estate planning sooner rather than later.

A study has shown that most people reach the peak of their ability to make financial choices at the age of 53. By age 60, however, that skill begins to lag. Mental conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's can sometimes hasten the process, although some people will continue to function effectively well into old age.

It is recommended that adult children watch their parents for signs that their ability to manage their own affairs is not what it once was. These signs may include, but aren't limited to, trouble doing simple math, leaving information out of forms and documents, taking longer to perform basic financial transactions, or failing to identify obvious risks in an investment scheme. Should evidence of diminishing capabilities be evident, it may be time to talk about making choices for the future now.

Some people may not feel comfortable bring up a subject like this with their parents. Experts suggest easing into the conversation by citing a recent relevant example in the news, or bringing up a friend or relative experiencing similar problems. The key is to show that no one is trying to steal their independence, and that it is in their best interests to seek help and support from someone they can trust.

Though it may seem contradictory for a child to make decisions for his or her parent, the fact is it might be what's best for everyone. In order to avoid financial pitfalls down the road, it may be necessary to establish a course of action as soon as possible. A lawyer experienced with estate law in Ontario can help with the sensitive but important task of estate planning.

Source: sltrib.com, "Aging parents often need help with their finances", Sarah Skidmore Sell, Jan. 5, 2017

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