Q: My elderly aunt, with a schizophrenic son, has no legal documents in place (will, POA, etc). As her caregiver, how can I convince her that she needs to get her affairs in order – now?

A: Many people find it very difficult to deal with wills, powers of attorney, etc. They are afraid that dealing with these issues somehow makes it more likely that something bad will happen to them.

Try to convince your aunt of just the opposite, that the state or a local judge will take control of her future unless she sets out her wishes in a legal document. For example, it may be advisable for her to leave her assets to a trust for the benefit of her son, as opposed to leaving it to him outright.

The trust can hold and protect the money for the son's benefit while allowing him to qualify for various government benefits, while an outright gift or bequest of the money to him under her will could cause him to lose government benefits.

So, yes, I agree with you that you should make an effort to point out to your aunt the advantages of advance planning, for her son's sake if not for her own.

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