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Dear Mom & Dad: Help Me Help You: An Elder Law Attorney's Guide to Smart Strategies & Difficult Conversations About Health and Money

by Nicole Wipp


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As a young child, I had the unbelievable gift of a close knit family, led by loving and caring grandparents. My grandparents, like so many, tried to do everything “right.” They saved. They had fun. They saw a lawyer. They had a will. However, even their desire and attempt to do everything right, to keep a close family intact, to pass on a legacy to their loved ones didn’t come without a cost – family squabbles over things not properly considered, poorly informed adult children not having a handle on assets, hurt feelings and family disconnect.
Fast forward a few decades, to several years ago when I decided to dedicate my life as a lawyer to the practice of elder law. Very quickly, I noticed some things that, over time, have become more and more of a concern: the general lack of good, smart planning by otherwise very smart people. This concern is shared, almost universally, by my colleagues nationwide, and even worldwide, as we all struggle to cope with rapidly aging populations.
We are talking about smart people – people that have, like my grandparents, tried to do the right thing. Today’s world, however, is a very different one than my (and your) grandparents and their parents inhabited. People are living longer, but not necessarily with better health. Healthcare today often extends the quantity of life, without considering the quality of life. When this happens - as it does for most people, lack of smart planning can have devastating consequences, both personally and financially.

Fast-forward again to present day, where, in my early forties, I personally experienced what many of my clients and families go through later in life – a major health crisis. In January 2015, after a year of mysterious and misdiagnosed symptoms, I was hospitalized for 27 days and ultimately diagnosed with a rare lung disease, lymphangioleiomymatosis. Although I had been practicing in the field of elder law for several years, during my hospitalization and months of recovery I gained an even deeper understanding of how ill-prepared almost everyone is for dealing with the healthcare system and how easy it is to lose control, especially when you are most vulnerable.

This book is designed to be an introductory guide to the things that need to be discussed between adult children and aging parents – or, at the very least, considered and planned for by the aging parent. The goal is to try to fill in the many gaps that those of us dealing every day with the aging population see – gaps that are often not filled in by traditional estate planning documents, and gaps that aren’t considered within the legal world at all. As I often say, its what you don’t know, that can hurt you.

Although there are more topics and depth than could ever be explored by a single book, complexity is the enemy of progress. This book seeks to set out the most common challenges faced by families with aging loved ones, and provide some of the strategies to overcome these challenges.

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