Burning the Bridges: A Cautionary Tale

Things to think about Before Dad Moves In!

Sometimes “burning the bridges” is a great idea. When it comes to implementing a needed idea on which you have been endlessly procrastinating, burning the bridges (where you leave yourself no option other than implementing the idea) may be just what is needed.

Let’s start with the fictional story of Sam & Sally and Bob (Sally’s Dad).

For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to Sally’s Dad as just “Dad”. Dad had retired and was living alone in a retirement village. Although he had a few physical issues, he was in fairly good shape. His main issue was loneliness. Feeling bad that her Dad was sad and lonely on a daily basis and knowing that this was a bad way to live out the last bit of your life, Sally acted on impulse.

After talking to Sam, Sally invited her Dad to come live with them. This is one of those ideas that is easy to start and may be hard to reverse. What if (a week or a month later) both Sam & Sally decide that they have made a terrible mistake? OR what if Dad decides that living with daughter and son in law was not all that he had imagined?

Burning the Bridges

Like I said in the beginning of the article, sometimes “burning the bridges” is a great idea. However, when it comes to asking Mom or Dad to move in with you, a ‘burning the bridges’ move may not be a great idea. In this case, Dad, who lived 3 states away from Sam & Sally, sold his home and most of his household possessions, then moved across the country to live with his daughter and son in law.

He then gifted a bulk to the sales proceeds to Sam & Sally to build a “father’s-in-law” quarters addition to their home. Talk about burning the bridges! What if this doesn’t work out?

What should they have done first?

Moving in with the kids is a big deal that deserves a lot of consideration before the fact. If it turns out that after the move that one or more of the parties to the deal realizes that this was a bad move, it can be hard to rewind – resulting in a bad situation for one and all.

Here are a few things to think about before the move:

  1. Always Leave an Escape Route. Obviously you wouldn’t enter into a situation like this if you thought it wasn’t going to work. However you need to realistically think about the possibility that it may not. Where will Mom or Dad go if the plan doesn’t work?
  2. Keep the Home until you’re sure. Does Dad still have his home (to potentially move back to) or did he sell it? In our fictional case, he sold it, so no going back. Burning the bridges in life can be very costly, as this scenario illustrates.
  3. Keep the Money. Does Dad still have the money from the sale that he could use to buy another place, buy into a retirement community or pay for a few months or years of Independent Living or for some care at an Assisted Living Facility? In this scenario, he gave the money to the kids to build an in-laws quarters.
  4. Plan ahead. What if Dad’s health declines more and he needs more care at his new home. Will daughter and son in law be able to provide needed care at home? Does Dad have money for non-medical caregivers? Will daughter and son in law contribute financially for Dad’s care? Are they able to physically provide care? Will the other siblings contribute time or money toward Dad’s care OR will they think that since he is living with “Sister” that she is taking care of everything?
  5. Meet with an Elder Law Attorney. The above issues are only a few of the things that could crop up in a situation like this. Dad may need to re-do his Estate Planning, sign care contracts with kids, do a rental agreement or a joint occupancy agreement, buy a fractional interest in daughter and son-in-law’s home, do an asset preservation plan in anticipation of future nursing home placement or a number of other things.

    Arkansas residents can schedule a free 10-minute phone consultation with one of the Elder Law professionals from our firm.

Mom Centered Family Meeting

Additionally, it’s always a great idea to do a Mom Centered Family Meeting with the family BEFORE the move. At this meeting, you can discuss all of the above mentioned issues (and more) and nip as many of the issues in the bud as possible so they won’t haunt you in the future. A third-party perspective may prevent you from burning the bridges too soon.

It’s usually not as simple as “just moving Dad in”. As you see from the above hypothetical, there are usually many things to think about and discuss in advance.

Best wishes to you as you work to help the declining parent in your life!

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