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The one conversation you need to have with your parents this Christmas

Benjamin Franklin famously stated that you shouldn’t put off until tomorrow that which should be done today. Having a conversation with aging parents fits squarely in the middle of what needs to be done today.  As uncomfortable as it might be, having the talk before a crisis is critical to avoiding negative consequences that can affect you and your parents for years to come.

Getting things out in the open clarifies the choices ahead.  Talking through the options allows your family to chart the course your aging parents will take so they can prepare for unexpected events.  Not talking removes choice from everyone and leaves what will happen largely to chance.

A recent survey found that over 60 percent of parents and their adult children disagree about when to initiate these conversations. The same survey reported that over 40 percent of parents have not had detailed discussions about covering their expenses in retirement.  More than any other subject, financial issues are the most challenging conversation that children will have with their parents and it is among the most important.

As senior citizens age, they often feel like control is slipping away from their hands, a new sensation for the greatest generation.  Giving up control, even hypothetically, means facing their eventual mortality and the realization that life is in fact shorter than we would like.  Knowing this and planning for it are two very different things.  It will always be easier to wait for the right time than to act decisively.

Financial responsibility was ingrained in our elders from when they were young. They were the breadwinners; the ones their children came to for advice and direction.  For most of their lives they alone have been responsible for the emotional and financial care of their family.  This will not change overnight.

Talking about someone you know who recently had the same experience, especially someone from your family, can be just the icebreaker you need to get the ball rolling.  The reality is that our aging parents attend funerals of their peers.  A friend of theirs who has moved to an assisted living apartment is also an appropriate opening for this discussion.

Once you begin this discussion follow up is critical. Whoever is going to be the primary care giver / problem solver needs to have the legal authority to do their job.  Being able to clarify how children should carry out their parents’ wishes goes a long way to build the additional trust required to get everyone’s desired result.

Here are several key bases to cover in your conversation:

  • Ask if they have an estate plan or will in place and where the documents are located. Other questions include the details of their will, trust, power of attorney and healthcare directives. How long has it been since those documents were reviewed?
  • Clarify any medical insurance besides Medicare and if they have long-term care insurance.
  • Determine what income sources they have along with debts and expenses each month. Do they have an attorney and financial planner already familiar with their affairs?
  • Who prepares their tax returns and where are they located? Get information about bank and brokerage accounts and records of other assets. While financial decisions are still up to your parents as long as they retain capacity, the day will come someone else will have to step in. Adult children may have input into what should happen but it’s ultimately up to the parents to make important decisions about their future as long as they are able.


The Law Offices of Quinton J. Miller is a general practice law firm with an emphasis on Estate Planning and serves clients throughout Sacramento and Northern California.  We assist clients with estate and long term care planning, and small businesses with transition planning, litigation, and general business needs.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact us at (916) 714-1717 or visit our website at


Critical Planning Documents You Should Have Today!

What Is A Durable Power of Attorney?

A Durable Power Of Attorney gives authority to another person and allows them to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. They would typically make those decisions if you become mentally incompetent as a result of an illness or some other factor. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s not a requirement that the person you select to be an actual attorney. People often choose their spouse, a child, a close friend or sibling as their attorney-in-fact. I always recommend that you also name at least one additional person called the attorney-in-fact to serve in case your first choice becomes disabled or dies. It is critically important that the person or persons you choose are willing to step up should the time come.

What Does A Durable Power Of Attorney Do For Me?

Your Durable Power of Attorney allows you specify how broad or limited their power and decision making will be. You might give full rights to buy property, invest, engage in tax planning and even plan for benefits you might be eligible to receive from the government. Speak with your actual attorney and finding out more about those powers you should grant to your attorney-in-fact is a wise move.

What advantages Do I Gain With A Durable Power Of Attorney?

Some people go so far as to have joint financial accounts with their attorney-in-fact and we can advise you on the actual structure and what rights are granted when.   The advantage of the Durable POA is the person you selected is only allowed to use your assets for your benefits. The Durable POA allows for the transfer of decision-making power without affecting the estate plan you have in place. That means that if you have a joint bank account, those funds will automatically be transferred to the joint tenant at the time of your death. Also, your attorney-in-fact loses all control at the time of your death and any assets they have control over become a part of your estate.

Why Would I Want A Health Care Proxy?

A Health Care Proxy can be a critical document to have on file. This is a legal document granting someone you choose the right to make health care decisions for you and on your behalf should you become unable to do so. They can make decisions if you are temporarily unconscious, in a coma or for some other reason can’t communicate your wishes. For them to make decisions for you your doctor must first determine that you are unable to make decisions on your own. Whomever you appoint will have the right to make the health decisions you would typically make and has access to all pertinent confidential information regarding your health.

Planning Documents and their creation is client specific and one size does not fit all. For this reason and many others you need an experienced professional to help you evaluate your needs and then create a plan to accomplish your goal. The Professionals at Quinton Miller Law have the experience and expertise you should demand when it comes to your Trust and Estate requirements. We know the questions to ask and will help you accomplish the goals you seek. Call our office at 916-714-1717 or ask visit us at We Can Help!

Revocable Or Irrevocable Trust?

I’m a big fan of Irrevocable Trusts… in the right cases and for the right clients.  When it comes to Trusts I can tell you from my professional experience that one size doesn’t fit all and this is why you should seek competent legal counsel prior to putting a Trust together.

Assets are a funny thing.  There will always be people who want to get their hands on those assets through any means possible.  Assets easily flow in and out of Revocable Trusts requiring little more than paperwork and signatures.  When you place an asset into an Irrevocable Trust that asset is now owned by the Trust until the actual distribution happens under the terms of that Trust!  There are provisions that allow the grantor of the Trust to appeal to the trustee or the trustee protector and attempt to amend the document and this typically happens in cases where the beneficiary cannot handle their own affairs.  This can happen after such things as a serious health issue or even something like a severe alcohol or drug problem.  What may happen then is that the terms of the Trust are changed to protect the best interest of whoever is the named beneficiary.

Irrevocable Trusts typically have strong independent third party trustee professionals to safeguard the integrity of the Trust.  In fact, several states require the trustee be independent in order to amend a Trust because of the risk to the beneficiary and the potential erosion of their rights.  The trustee doesn’t have to agree to the amendment if it would change part of the material purposes of the Trust.

Trust formation and creation is clients specific and one size does not fit all.  For this reason and many others you need an experienced professional to help you evaluate your needs and then create a plan to accomplish that goal.  The Professionals at Quinton Miller Law have the experience and expertise you should demand when it comes to your Trust requirements.  We know the questions to ask and will help you accomplish the goals you seek.  Call our office at 916-714-1717 or ask visit us at  We Can Help!