How do I get my mother to update her trust and power of attorney?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom is a very healthy, almost 78-year-old widow. She has a living trust that has not been updated for more than 25 years and claims she has a medical power of attorney. I have asked her several times over the past several years to update the trust, and she says she will get to it. I also asked if I could see it, and she told me she would give me a copy when she revised it. I am concerned for my brother's and my future relationship, not the money -- and told her that, but she still refuses to update the documents.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Sounds as if your mom has met your gently nagging approach with resolutely deaf ears.

And since she apparently made the move to draft these estate planning documents long ago, she is likely aware of the good they can do to get final affairs in order -- and calm potential future family squabbles. And while conventional legal wisdom advocates that trusts and advance directives should be reviewed every year or two, there is a chance that her quarter-century-old documents still meet her current needs and wishes.

You might consider changing tactics. Instead of focusing on the need for your mother to revise her trust and power of attorney, ask her whether and why she seems to be hesitant to do it. Does the prospect make her queasy or anxious about her own mortality? Does she fret you're being bossy or grabby? Does she think the documents are good enough as they are? Is she uncertain about how or where to get help having revisions made?

You might best be able to move things forward by helping address those underlying concerns.And finally, understand that you may not be able to overcome your mom's resistance -- and may just have to live with that reality. There is no requirement that she must make her estate plans public, even to close family members.