As an Orange County elder lawyer, I know that too often we handle family issues in crisis management mode.

We wait until the unthinkable happens…a fall, a sudden illness, or even a death, and then everyone goes into emotional overdrive, sometimes with catastrophic results.

If we really want to take care of our families and do the best we can for them, we need to be proactive and discuss our concerns before the worst happens.  One of the best ways to do this is with family meetings.

If you are already dealing with a sudden illness or family infighting, planning a meeting may seem like a luxury.  But if you take these few steps, you can make the best of what little time you have available to plan and make sure that your loved one’s needs are properly met:

  • Don’t expect to take care of everything right way in one meeting.  Plan to move in small steps;
  • Set a goal for each meeting and make sure that everyone involved agrees on that goal ahead of time;
  • Meet in a neutral location that is comfortable for everyone attending.  If everyone who needs to be involved cannot be there physically, arrange for a conference call.  Conference call services are available through your local telephone company and it’s really easy to do;
  • Limit your meeting to no more than seven people and only close relatives;
  • Due thorough research on the subject to be discussed (for instance, nursing home options, treatments available for the illness affecting your loved one, etc.) and share your findings ahead of time with everyone who will be attending either by email or regular mail;
  • If you are meeting to discuss estate planning,  bring the appropriate documents with you; and,
  • Prepare and stick to a short agenda that gives everyone time to speak and voice their thoughts and concerns (within reason, of course).

And most of all, as an Orange County elder lawyer, I want to remind you this is a meeting.  Stick to your agenda, keep everyone on point and you will make the best possible use of the limited time you have available to take care of your family properly.