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I know I am staring down the barrel of a gun right now. Dad is 88 and has procrastinated til the bitter end. He is in bad health and my husband and I do most of his shopping and all of the driving to his many appointments. He lives alone and it's usually a dirty mess over there. He refuses household help. More to the point: He has no will. He owns no property but has several accounts. I am his POA. There is substantial money which he probably wants to go to my sister since he is partially supporting her in another city. This is fine with me, but she is not named as a beneficiary on anything despite discussion by me about this. Our mom passed away 13 years ago, and she is still named as beneficiary on some things. On some accounts there is NO beneficiary. Dad pays all his own bills and says he intends to work on all this, also once upon a time made an appointment with an attorney to talk about a will, then cancelled it. For one account, I copied a beneficiary form and placed it in front of him. No go. He is still procrastinating on it 7 months later. I feel like I can't nudge him any more. I love him and we are still buddies, but I am just fed up. So, bottom line, how can I prepare myself for the financial fallout of his death? I just want to shield myself now. Enough is enough.

While this is not a miracle in a book, I suggest that you read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. I have read comments from people who felt that it really did not help them with their particular problem/LO, but it is not a "cookbook". 'What it did for me is to get me to a place where I could ask questions of my FIL to try to understand his thinking. He was 93 at the time and lived in own house with MIL. She has moderate ALZ dementia, and he had early vascular dementia. He was still driving, refused home help and would not move. I was awake almost every night worrying about the upcoming disaster which I knew was coming.

I asked variations of the "5 questions" to ask him what he wanted, what he was thinking about and what it would take for him to decide to move. I had this discussion when I was not aggravated by something he was not doing to suit me so that I could be patient and listen to his answers instead of telling him what to do. In our case, he knew he needed to move but he could not figure out how to start the process; he did not know how to do the first step and the idea of any of it was so overwhelming that he just refused to change anything. I think I was partly lucky, and partly just got him at the right moment. But also I think this book got me in the right frame of mind to talk to him and take a different approach by asking him about how he saw the future while did lead to a breakthrough,
The story of elderly people who refuse care, refuse to cooperate with efforts to assist them, refuse to allow family to assist with finances but cannot manage themselves is common everywhere there are elderly people. I think that they are afraid that if they give up one thing, it will start a slippery slope to loss of complete control and it often does because once they give up something, people find out what a mess it all truly is. But we don't really ask them what they want, and how the future might look to them. Sadly we cannot cheat death by procrastination and delaying these decisions increase the likelihood of that death being more terrible than necessary as well as leaving a mess for the survivors. So if what we are doing with them is not working, a different approach is worth a try.

Here are the questions.

Atul Gawande’s 5 Questions to Ask at Life’s End – Next Avenue

"We need to know: 1. What is your understanding of where you are and of your illness? 2. Your fears or worries for the future 3. Your goals and priorities 4. What outcomes are unacceptable to you? What are you willing to sacrifice and not? And later, 5. What would a good day look like? Asking these allows everybody to understand what the goal really is — what are you really fighting for? It’s for a life that contains certain things."
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thepianist Jun 14, 2019
Gawande's book is truly excellent. It does not, though, give advice on what to do about disposing of a decedent's assets.
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We had a similar issue with my in laws. So we got together with our own attorney and asked him what our options are and how we could proceed to get all their affairs in order. He ended up writing a will for them which we took to them, they read over and they did sign it. Actually, it seemed like they were a bit relieved that it was done for them. They had had a will it was very outdated as my BIL had been killed a few years earlier. Our attorney also wrote new POA's, taking my BIL out of the POA and putting my step daughter in. A good attorney will be able to advise you on how best to proceed. As my MIL ages (FIL died in December) we continue to consult our attorney on how to legally protect her and keep her safe in all ways. It may help you also to consult an attorney... preferably your own who already knows you and your own situation.
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Calgirl, this may not be the nightmare it seems. When you father (a widow) dies, under CA law the children will share equally in all assets that do not have named beneficiaries. If your mother's name is still on some policies or accounts, all you need to do is have copies of her death certificate available. You and your sister will share equally in anything that your mother would have received. Anything with a named beneficiary is simple, you just give the B. a copy of the death certificate. Often the estate pays these taxes from the assets, so the beneficiary won't have to, as well as the usual estate taxes. It is simply not true that when a person dies the state gets everything. ONLY in the case that no immediate or distant family members can be found, will this happen.

You will need to file an application with your father's county probate court, requesting to be appointed administrator of your father's estate (and your sister may need to submit a sworn statement saying she is not opposed). If your father's assets will be complicated in terms of taxes or investments or trusts, you may need an estate lawyer, but very often you can handle this yourself if you're willing to invest the time. (Probate court staff are usually very helpful, too.) Try to relax about all this. Unless your father has unknown children out there, this might be much more straightford than you now think. Good luck (when the time comes--we're not trying to rush things!)
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Gather as much info as you can about dad's finances, including beneficiary info on his insurance, investments, etc. then make an appointment with a lawyer for yourself to find out as much as you can about how Federal and State laws work with regard to someone who dies intestate. If there is no will then there will be an order of inheritance... your sister might not get as much as dad wants, however, because it will probably be divided equally among his children. Every state is different, though, so best to get an expert.
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If he is helping your sister, can she manage a large inheritance or will she blow through it and then be looking to you for money?

This might be the button to push. Dad, sissy needs you to be responsible and set up a trust or will that only pays her xx amount monthly. I won't be able to help her financially and I know you don't want to see her ?be homeless? not eating? No meds? Whatever pushes him?, so let's do this.
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HVsdaughter Jun 14, 2019
A trust set up for her...what a great idea and could be the best plan for her.
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Calgirl, some people are just really good at finances even up into their later years, but they had been that way all of their adult life. Others, just wing it, and hope for the best.

Elders can be stubborn, too. They want to cling on every bit of independence they can, thus will refuse others to help.

As for your Dad's finances, chances are most of what he had saved will go for around the clock care. And that can empty out a savings account rather quickly.

Your Dad probably doesn't realize that his estate may go into Probate Court if he has no Will, and depending on the net worth of his estate. The Probate Judge will decide who gets what. If there is you and one sister, then the Judge could split the estate in half.

If later down the road your Dad needs a village to help take care of him [nursing home and Medicaid help], the money he has been giving to your sister will complicate matters. I realize we never think about this or even know about this when giving money to grown children.

Another thing that happens, and my parents did that to me, our elder parents forget that we are grown adults, maybe even seniors ourselves, and what do we know as the parent still view us a kid :P
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One way is to tell him if he dies without doing the proper paperwork then the government will take a percentage so if he does nothing then he pays them more - that usually work if nothing else as nobody wants to pay extra  taxes!
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You know what finally worked with my MIL, who refused to make any kind of EOL plans?

She was talking about how she'd just pass and she trusted her 3 kids to calmly disperse of her worldy goods, She just didn't want a fuss.

Teeth grinding--because that's NOT what would happen.

Finally, I flat out told her that the STATE would step in, appoint an attorney to go through ALL HER THINGS (yes, including her underwear drawer) and would assess the values of things and AFTER he'd given the state their chunk--only then would the family receive anything. (Yes, I know that's not the exact way it would go, but it would be a nightmare).

Being a DIL and not in a position to receive anything (she has made it known that I am not to be able to 'benefit' in any way from her demise--why would I even care?

She spent an hour with an attorney and was told pretty much exactly what I told her. She now has a will--but this could easily have gone the other way.

DH is her executor and he is livid. Doesn't even speak to her, but, dang it, he's gonna be in it up to his armpits.

She was angry, b/c it did cost her like $2K to have the will drawn up, but it's better knowing a stranger won't be pawing through her 'delicates'.
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Thank, countrymouse - Yes, my mother is named on an insurance policy or two, and a substantial bank account. While he was in a rehab facility last year and we cleaned his apartment and cared for his cat, we also took stock of his files. All paper files, nothing electronic. Some statements were scattered about the house with random mail piles, so we gathered them to get them into the matching folders. We were told to back off of his files, so they are still in a heap in his living room. He even griped at me one day about the pile we left!!! And we had left it right there because he told us to!
Yes, I'm in California. I attempted to go back and edit my post to say this, but I guess I didn't "save" properly or something!
I expect nothing problematic from my sister. She's happy to have left me in charge, as she is in delicate physical and emotional health and really cannot handle decision making or anything. It's just that she needs some cash for survival, so I don't want her to have to wait 2 years or however long probate takes.
I don't know what he's afraid of!! He's been a terrible procrastinator as long as I can remember. I forced myself to gently bring up the issue of wills and beneficiaries, and he seemed to welcome that discussion, but now NOTHING.
And now a new thing: He welcomed our offer to "help him" clean out storage units at his apartment building, but now that we are hauling things out to show him what there is, guess what..... NO. No. No. So I guess we're putting most of it back.
Thanks so much for answering!
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Well. There is a mental block. You can spend many an entertaining hour trying to figure out what it is, but meanwhile you just have to accept that there is one and it's making him baulk.

But he is content to be your sister's financial mainstay, yes? I expect he and you are both sorry that your sister needs this help, as in sorry that she's not in better shape and able to do without it; but he doesn't resent subbing her and you've no objection either?

So maybe that's the thread to pull on - telling him that you're worried that if he doesn't make specific provision for his daughter, that daughter is going to be in hot water for between six months and two years because nobody will be able to advance her any cash; and even if he can't face the rest of it could he please deal with that?
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