Important Things to Think About Before You Question or Challenge Your Elderly Parent’s Decision
1. Has your parent been assessed by a health professional and found incapable of managing their financial affairs?
- If not, has your parent had a medical diagnosis of a health condition that could affect their mental processes?
- Does the health professional or doctor involved have a history with your parent such that they had a baseline to consider when making their assessment?
- Has there been some improvement since the initial assessment of incapability was made?
2. If there has been no assessment of incapability, but you yourself are concerned about a decision your parent has made, ask yourself: how does this decision affect their own interests, both in the short term and the long term?
- Any concerns that you or your brothers or sisters have about what happens to property under your parent’s Will after their death does NOT affect their present interests.
- What is a more important consideration is whether this decision has the potential to compromise your parent’s ability to contribute to their own support until the end of their days
3. Does the decision reflect earlier statements, conversations or discussions your parents have had about what their wishes are?
- To your knowledge, have those wishes changed?
- A sudden decision to transfer property that comes out of the blue could be problematic and worthy of a closer look.
4. Have you asked your parent why they have made this decision or why they want to transfer assets to one of your brothers or sisters?
- Has your parent given a reason for making this decision?
- Objectively, does this reason make sense?
- A decision that may make sense to an elderly parent does not have to make sense to the children if it is objectively reasonable and does not harm the parent’s interests.
5. Are you allowing the matter of your share of an inheritance to get into the mix, whether unconsciously or otherwise?
- Be brutally honest with yourself on this point and look carefully at your own motives.
- If the decision favours a brother or sister, and your relationship with the favoured one is not particularly close or even good, is this colouring your view of what your parent has decided?
- Thinking the worst of someone because you don’t get along with them can easily create suspicion and mistrust when there is no real basis for it.
6. If you involve third parties like the Public Guardian and Trustee or the local health authority, do you know what potential consequences this might have for your parent’s right to continue making their own decisions?
- How will your parent react to the idea that what you are doing might remove that right?
It is important that older adults have people they trust in order to advocate for them. Ideally, this would be someone who does not stand to benefit from their property or under their Will but it is not always a simple matter to find someone who fits the bill.
Where there is the potential for a family dispute as a result of the parent’s decision, it may be a very good idea for the parent to appoint co-attorneys (under an enduring power of attorney) or co-representatives (in a Representation Agreement). For further information about these documents, and for advice on all of these difficult issues, we can help. Contact us here.