Alan D. Feller, Esq.
The Thanksgiving Talk
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I cannot deny that the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and desserts are all contributing factors to the esteem I hold for that day. Besides sharing a feast and watching the Detroit Lions struggle after the Macy’s parade, the real magic of Thanksgiving is spending extensive quality time with the people who matter. Multi-generational conversations filled with stories of long ago are some of my fondest family memories. Did grandpa really chase a would-be thief on rooftops? One Thanksgiving I found out the answer. It is also the one day each year in which an entire family can take stock and formulate plans around a dining room table.
In olden times, estate planning was not a subject to be discussed out in the open during a holiday. All you knew was that your grandparents visited a lawyer at some point and there were Wills hidden in the house. Secrecy, it was thought, would postpone any jealousy or hurt feelings. Avoiding these types of conversations still led to distrust and had the added effect of leaving surviving family members unprepared for the road ahead.
So, after the turkey has been stripped clean and the coffee has been poured, maybe it is the right time to ask if dad has a Power of Attorney. Advance directives like Health Care Proxies and Powers of Attorney appoint individuals to make decisions if one is not able to act for themselves. Planning ahead means being ready when life’s difficult situations arise. Not being able to pay a bill or receive a financial statement is a form of helplessness that can be avoided. One simple question asked as the ice cream cake is being cut can be one step closer to preparedness.
For parents and grandparents, Thanksgiving is a time to listen. Adult children and grandchildren will talk about their lives. Gauging the health, financial and relationship paths of family members can help the older generations plan their estates accordingly. Planning can also include discussions concerning long-term care. Thanksgiving Day provides a snapshot in time of your loved ones. You can see how aging has impacted everyone. Older relatives struggling with illnesses may require assistance in their daily lives. They can apply for Medicaid benefits to provide home health care aides. A family that absorbs this information and calls attention to it can act in a meaningful way. Thanksgiving provides an opportunity for real family communication.
Especially during this Covid time, interactions to bring about desired results are being prioritized by families. Thanksgiving is a day where a dialogue is generated and can flow in different directions. Keep in mind that estate planning talk is no longer out of bounds at a holiday dinner. Setting the wheels in motion after years of talk and inaction will prove satisfying. Open and straightforward conversations about how to manage a family’s resources and protect assets serves to strengthen a family core. Watching a grandparent, parent and child pass the mashed potatoes to each other while sharing a joke is a moment that defines Thanksgiving. Intelligent planning initiated at the right occasion, even a certain turkey themed holiday, will allow the feeling of that moment to live on. Talk to the professionals at Sloan and Feller today for more estate planning information.