If you’re like most Boulder County residents, you don’t live close to extended family. In casual conversation it’s almost rare to discover an adult who was actually born here. Less than one-third of us were born in Colorado (let alone Boulder County) according to the most recent Boulder County TRENDS report. New residents keep coming including last year when more than a net total of 100,000 people migrated into the state from various locales.
With most of us from somewhere else, you may have traveled to be with extended family over the holidays or they came to you. You may rarely see them and I encourage you in the midst of the merriment to use this time to have conversations with them that are best held in person.
Extended Family Finances. As much as many try to leave this world spending their last dollar, you most likely will be leaving an inheritance to your heirs. Want to leave a horrible family legacy? Don’t talk about money during your lifetime with your family.
While you may want your will and beneficiary designations to do the talking, you can save your family a lot of strife by having open conversations now. Perhaps you helped one of your children when they went through a painful divorce and intend to support your other heirs more upon your death. You may want to leave more of your estate to those children that you view as the neediest. They should find this out from you when they’re looking in your eyes rather than seething and squabbling after your funeral.
Conversations about Your Wishes. Say you’re one of the organized ones with a medical power of attorney in place along with an advance directive specifying your preferences for end of life care. I congratulate you for your forethought as according to the Conversation Project, only 23 percent of you have put your wishes in writing.
While documents are important, they are not enough. Fewer have spoken about their wishes to their loved ones. It’s very possible that your children will have to make very uncomfortable decisions about your end of life care. Have that conversation with them now, so they know they are carrying out your wishes as it’s too much of a burden for them to do this without hearing it straight from you. A good free resource to make this process easier can be found on theconversationprojectinboulder.org.
The Keys to the Kingdom. If suddenly you weren’t here tomorrow, how would your family sort through the remnants of your life? Do they know how to get into your house? For efficiency, many of your financial relationships may be conducted on line. This means there won’t be credit card bills arriving at your home, online bills will be paid unnecessarily or will be neglected, retirement and other investment accounts will be forgotten, and life insurance policies undiscovered.
One of the greatest gifts you can give a spouse or other loved ones is the keys to the kingdom in the form of good records and passwords so they can easily sort your finances when the time comes that you cannot be their guide. A simple one-page sheet with this information should be sufficient.
Check In with Older Relatives. Over the holidays many of you have been shocked by the rapid regression in the health of your older family members who you don’t see very often. While most do want to age in place and stay in their home as long as possible, they may be at risk of hurting themselves or someone else. It may be that having Meals on Wheels deliver them a daily meal and check on them is the right path. Older people can lose personal connections when living alone and can suffer from malnutrition as they may not bother to prepare a healthy meal. On-demand rides through Via are available for those who can’t get around on their own for appointments and shopping trips.
If you’re concerned that your loved ones need more comprehensive care, know that the busy season is about to begin for long-term care facilities. These are never easy conversations, but I recommend you sit down with family to come up with a plan before the situation becomes dire.