In this episode, I talk about the 7th key.

The 7th key is about providing a roadmap for your family.

It’s about organizing yourself, your family, and your kids based on your personal family philosophy for what you want to happen when you’re gone.

Here’s a situation that seems to sneak up on families. It’s so natural for an older parent to help take care of the grandkids. And at some point that switches over to the adult child taking care of the parents. That all seems innocent enough. After all, isn’t that what families are supposed to do?

But here’s a story that illustrates the potential problem. Adult daughter (Debra) moved here from out of state. Debra gets married and has some beautiful children. Debra’s mom and dad (Margaret and Doug) live out of state. They want desperately to be able to be around the grandkids. So they move here to Arizona to help take care of Debra’s kids. Everyone spends lots of time together and grows very close.

Margaret and Doug have two other adult children, who also live out of state. The other children have their own careers and have a hard time coming to Arizona more than once or twice a year at holidays.

The years go by, and Doug eventually dies. Margaret is older and Debra helps take care of her … doing the shopping, taking her mom to doctor appointments, and keeping her mom company. At one point, Margaret (the mom) tells Debra that she wants Debra to get paid for all the time that she is spending. Margaret recognizes that Debra has put her own career on hold in order to spend more time taking care of her mom.

Then Margaret dies, and Debra asserts a claim against the estate for all the time and expenses over the years that she spent on taking care of her mom. This causes a huge family battle. The agreement for Debra to get paid was never put into writing.

Having practiced law for almost 20 years, I can tell you that this is all too common a situation. The problem is that without a written agreement for the caretaker child to take care of the parent, the caretaker child runs into various rules of law that prevent recovery. (These include the Statute of Frauds and the hearsay rule.) Also, the presumption in Arizona, and I believe in most other states, is that family loves each other and care for each other without the expectation of payment.

If you truly have an agreement to provide services in exchange for some kind of compensation, get it in writing signed by the person being taken care of. Preferably, of course, you should have this written by an attorney. But anything in writing is going to be better than nothing.

Do you have any questions you’d like to see addressed in a future article? Drop me a line here.

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