Why Estate Planning Should NOT Wait: What We Learned from Dad’s Recent Passing

family sitting on a park bench

Our father battled with Alzheimer’s Disease for years. Throughout that process, we lived the life of many Gentreo users. From caring for my son and both of our parents, to having to deal with the emotional, financial, and legal issues of someone in declining health, we experienced what millions of caregivers, children and employees are experiencing themselves. We used these experiences to build Gentreo into a platform that makes caregiving while working easier.

The number one thing we learned throughout this process is to start early. About five years ago, before Dad’s Alzheimer’s started to rear its ugly head, my parents paid an estate planning attorney $10,000 to do their estate plan. Oh, how glad we are that they did! 

A couple years earlier, when dad became unable to handle his financial decisions, I was able to step in and use the Power of Attorney to pay his bills, work with his bank, file his taxes and more. If we had waited until he wasn’t capable of making decisions, we would have had to go to court and request conservatorship. That single document saved us thousands in legal fees as well as the time and aggravation going to court would have taken.

My sister, Julie, my son, and I all went out of state to live with my parents in March of 2020 to help our mom with Dad’s daily care as his Alzheimer’s progressed. My son and I stayed until he returned to school in September. 

Thankfully, Mom and Julie were able to handle the sleepless nights, bed changes, and 24/7 care that Dad required. By Christmastime, it was clear that Dad would need more and more care and we reached out to a nursing home to transition him to when care became too much. At the time, our grandmother was living at the same facility, which was wonderful. Unfortunately, even with all the precautions the nursing home had in place, she contracted COVID and passed away in December 2020. Given that COVID was so rampant and that the facilities were greatly reducing new patients, we decided to keep Dad at home. Our mother is amazing, and she was able to keep him home until the very end.  

From an emotional standpoint, having a Health Care Proxy was critical, especially when I was out of state, but still trying to help my mom and Julie with Dad’s care. I used it to reorder medicine, participate in Skype doctor’s visits, or discuss my father’s healthcare with medical professionals as it contains a HIPAA release. Most importantly, when we had to take him to the hospital that final time, we knew what he wanted to happen with his healthcare choices. It was so much easier to make the decision to not give him life-saving treatments when we knew that it was his decision, not ours. When you’re sitting in the hospital and the doctor asks you how aggressive you want his treatments to be, having a Health Care Proxy makes the answers so much easier. 

He suffered for four days in the hospital. In truth, we all suffered as watching him gasp for air, unable to communicate and most likely in pain. Although there was some relief as he was getting pain medicines, it was horrible for all of us. When he did finally pass away, there was so much to do. From notifying family and friends to executing his funeral plan, it was three weeks of non-stop tasks. This was all WITH a Will. I couldn’t imagine how horrible it would have been to have to go to probate court to allow us to close his accounts and manage his assets. From planning his tribute to dealing with doctors, bills, and the logistics of burying someone, having to go to court and meet with lawyers was one less thing we had to do in an emotionally draining time. Since we had lived with Alzheimer’s for years, we logically knew where dad’s road headed. But, even knowing what’s to come, death is always hard to deal with when it finally does come. I can’t imagine the emotional toll of dealing with death when it is unexpected.

Now that it’s been a month since he passed away, we have had some time to reflect on our journey and hopefully use it to make estate planning easier for all of the Gentreo users we help. The most important thing that we realized is that it’s critical that no one waits to do estate planning. If we had waited, life would have been so much harder than what we’re going through. The next thing we learned is that dealing with a loved one needing care is time consuming and many of the features Gentreo offers can help. Finally, we recognize the enormous emotional toll death can have and look forward to expanding the features Gentreo offers to employers and employees to help mitigate those. 

Gentreo is out to revolutionize how families do and use estate planning and we’re looking forward to using our experiences to help our customers prepare for their own journeys. If you would like to schedule a time to talk to one of our team members about how we can help your clients and their employees, please contact us at sales@gentreo.com.


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