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The Journey: Important (and difficult) conversations about end-of-life finances, care

Janet Kidd Stewart, Tribune News Service on

Published in Home and Consumer News

The oldest baby boomers are turning 72 this year. They're taking required distributions from their IRAs and even the ones who delayed Social Security checks as long as they could earn delayed retirement credits, to age 70, are now collecting.

What's left to plan? The end game, of course. The conversation no one wants to have.

Dorothy Bossung, executive vice president at Lowery Asset Consulting in Chicago, has seen wealthy executives die without a will in place, only to have their spouses drag their feet on their own documents later.

Other times, couples who do create health care directives get into awkward conversations late in life when a sick partner wants to pursue aggressive treatment plans that contradict the original directive.

"You can absolutely change your mind as a patient, but I've watched the dynamics. A husband decided to do chemotherapy, and every time he went, his wife would ask why he was continuing to do it," she said.

About five years ago a company called Death Over Dinner launched a website (deathoverdinner.org) that lets users send articles about various aspects of dying to friends and family and invite them over to dinner to discuss them. The company claims more than 100,000 people hosted these dinners in the early going. The basic idea is to get a conversation started about the family's values and legacy, a precursor to drafting legal documents such as wills and healthcare directives.

 

Fidelity offers basic tips for starting the conversation here: https://www.fidelity.com/growing-managing-wealth/estate-planning/talking-estate-planning.

The American Bar Association's Commission on Law and Aging offers several website tools (www.americanbar.org), including a step-through conversation that assesses how likely someone would be to endure significant side effects given the survival likelihood of the treatment.

Despite these and many other resources, experts say, not everyone has gotten the message.

"People don't want to talk about losing their independence – ever," says Carol Rosenblatt, an attorney and former nurse who co-founded agingparents.com. Her company mediation and other legal services related to elder care.

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