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Taking Care of Mom and Dad: Scams, Probate and Other Bad Things Introduction

My dad died six months ago. And everything that's happened since then has been a nightmare. He was a successful real estate broker and investor for 40 years. He sent three kids to college and helped each of us buy our first house. My mom died 10 years ago; dad married Roberta three years later. We were all happy for him. But, now that he's gone, everything's coming apart. It turns out he lost a lot of money in a couple of shady investments...and he died without a will. Roberta says she's keeping everything that's left because dad lied to her about the investments. My brothers say she talked him into them and they're going to sue her.

One of most important reasons to help your parents with their affairs as they get older is to protect them. As people get older, even the smartest and most successful can get drawn into bad decisions. In some cases, this is because they're not as sharp as they used to be; but, in many other cases, the bad calls have to do with emotional issues like fear of dying or loneliness that leads to misplaced trust.

As with charitable giving, you have to tread carefully when helping your parents with their plans for leaving behind their money and assets. The emotional issues they bring to the topic may lead them to wrong conclusions -- classically, that you're trying to "pack them off to die" or you're "not waiting 'til the body's cold."

And your parents aren't the only ones who can be difficult critics when it comes to end of life planning. If you have siblings...or if your parents have been married several times...family politics can make your financial advice a point of dispute. Other family members might grumble or openly allege that your advice was self-serving in some manner -- that you used your influence with an ailing parent to give yourself a bigger share of the estate.

So, as with giving, the best role you can play is to ask your parents what they want to do...and then focus on helping them do so in the most effective way. This is the approach that the best financial planners take; and, if one has already helped your parents well, your job is much easier.

If no one's helped your parents, the job falls to you.

This book isn't intended to be a treatise on estate planning or money management. Instead, we'll focus on the most common problems that trip up older people when it comes to managing their money and making their final arrangements.

And these most common problems fall into two rough categories: getting scammed and getting bogged down in probate. We'll consider the details of each, in turn.

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