Three questions to ask before Mom moves in
By Greg Bennett
Nadene King enjoys her new home — filled with possessions from her life in California — located in her daughter’s Orem basement.
Nadene King loved her 3,200-square-foot home in Yorba Linda, Calif. She had great neighbors. She enjoyed the weather and, for many years, enjoyed hosting visiting family and friends.
“We were sort of the Hotel Disneyland,” she says. “Our house was 30 minutes from Disneyland, so everyone would stay with us.”
But after living alone for 15 years after her husband’s death — and doing just fine, thank you very much — Nadene relocated to Utah. Her son was moving to Alpine, and she already had a daughter in Orem and another one in Davis County.
“My son was the one I would lean on,” Nadene says. “I knew he was only a few minutes away if I needed something. When he came out here, I felt it was time for me to move as well.”
She temporarily moved in with her daughter, Carolyn Manwaring, in Orem, with the plan to find another house similar to hers in California. After looking at a number of options — and at the suggestion of Carolyn’s husband, Dale — she moved in permanently with the Manwarings.
Instead of spending money on a new home, Nadene invested a fraction of the cost of a new home into remodeling the Manwaring’s basement into an apartment perfect for her current lifestyle and ready for the years to come.
“Multi-generational homes were pretty common even until the 1960s,” says David E. Palmer, a registered representative with Utah Community Investment Services, UCCU’s financial planning, retirement and insurance partner. “We’re starting to see it come back.”
Although every intergenerational roommate situation differs, here are three universal questions to ask to make mom’s move in smoother.
It’s imperative to find out how your elderly parent is doing financially, physically, mentally and emotionally.
“People move in with children for different reasons,” David says. “For some it’s because they need physical help. For others, the reasons might be more financial. Different situations are going to have different challenges.”
Be as educated about those challenges as possible.
For Nadene and Carolyn, the issues were less financial and more physical and emotional. Nadene turns 80 this month and has suffered from back pain for years. Plus, Carolyn didn’t like the thought of her mother in Southern California alone.
“It’s not good for people to live alone,” Carolyn says. “She was overwhelmed with the property and overwhelmed with being alone.”
Understanding where they were at helped them design a situation that meets Nadene’s needs while working for Dale and Carolyn at the same time.
What’s everybody thinking?
Communication — mom with children and children with children — is imperative. Everyone should agree on a solution.
“The best thing to do is sit down as a family and ask, ‘What do we do?’” says Brandon Johnson, an attorney with Fillmore Spencer in Provo. “If a parent moves in with someone, there are usually feelings there. If you don’t talk beforehand, there can be problems later.”
Besides understanding where everyone is coming from, it’s also important to understand that mom is in charge of her life.
“Mom’s still in charge,” Carolyn says. “She still makes her own decisions.”
Carolyn and her siblings divided responsibilities related to Nadene’s move and continue to share the workload on larger issues.
“We’ve been open, and each of us has taken time to make sure we’re working together for mom’s benefit,” Carolyn says.
What’s the plan?
Hosting mom can be a challenge.
Mom is challenged by her new stage of life that lacks freedom and independence.
The hosting child sacrifices privacy and free time.
Other children have opinions.
Often, all parties require financial adjustments.
Make sure to lessen challenges by getting a plan on paper.
“At the very least, have a will,” Brandon says. “For people with more assets or to avoid probate, a trust should be set up.”
A will is useful because it clearly outlines mom’s wishes for her assets after she dies.
“Decisions made in advance are mom’s or dad’s decisions,” David says.
Protect Yourself:Dependent mother
When bringing in mom, make preparations with an attorney. This may not be viewed as necessary early on in the arrangement, but the paperwork will become more valuable as the years wear on. Brandon Johnson, an attorney with Fillmore Spencer in Provo, explains three documents to review with your attorney.
1. Will. “It outlines what you want to happen to your assets after your death,” Brandon says. “You can change it, and it doesn’t become binding until your death.”
2. Trust. “It has a similar purpose to a will but is usually done by individuals with more assets and also avoids probate,” he says.
3. Durable powers of attorney. “This is a document that names someone as being able to legally make decisions for you. Consider doing this for your health decisions and financial decisions.”
Protect Yourself: Care-giving child
Make sure you’re adequately reimbursed for expenses and not held liable for your parent’s debts. Below are three steps to protect yourself, according to Brandon Johnson, an attorney with Fillmore Spencer in Provo.
1. Communicate. “Sit down and talk with Mom or Dad about financial considerations or other things you’re worried about,” he says. “Have an open dialogue.”
2. Be careful when you sign something. “Make sure you don’t sign something that makes you financially responsible,” he says.
3. Consider a P.O. Box. “Collections agencies can get confused if you have the same address — especially if you have the same name — so consider keeping a separate mailing address for mom or dad,” he says.