My father-in-law was passionate about estate planning, regularly sharing his findings. When both of my in-laws received a diagnosis of dementia, it became clear that he had not envisioned, discussed, or planned for the scenario of becoming ill or losing mental capacity. If he, who had read so much on estate planning, had not thought about or planned for such a situation, how many people would, and to what extent?
The family helped out before things could get out of control, quickly appreciating the efforts required to manage personal care and financial affairs. How could this life transition have been planned for and managed better? Are people thinking about what happens when they cannot manage independently anymore?
Aging, estate planning, and dementia have become regular topics of conversation in our personal social network. Given our personal experiences, my wife and I proactively listen and share our experiences. Over time, we have been called upon to help friends and family. The list of issues and challenges we’ve encountered keeps growing, but there is a common theme: “I wish I had known.”
“I wish I had known”
The time came to revisit and expand our own estate plan. Acknowledgment of the possibility that we be alive and incapacitated allowed us to produce a more complete plan and better readiness for our family. But more interestingly, our preparations enabled us to partner with my own parents to take action on their situation.
After many years of applying and fine-tuning this process to my parents’ plans, through a period of their diminishing skills and capabilities, has brought tremendous confirmation of the value of certain key actions, along with some critical learnings.
The insight and experience gained during this ongoing journey have resulted in the establishment of five pillars of planning that capture solutions for the vast majority of the issues people face through the aging process or as they lose capabilities. The recommendations and guiding principles presented in this book have become fundamental additions to my own estate plan and to my regular open communication about my plan with my family, typically yearly.
After receiving unexpected interest in my findings and framework from people around me, it became clear that there was a need to communicate the importance of the five pillars as a fundamental enhancement to the financial and estate planning processes for people entering the elderly phase of life – hence, the creation of Advocacy in Aging.