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When dreams meet reality

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More often than not, the suggestion that an ageing parent should live with a child arises out of a strong loving family relationship. And those types of relationship are invaluable.

These joint living arrangements (commonly called granny flat arrangements) are useful especially when one considers the uncertain future for our aged care system.

Unfortunately, many invaluable relationships are put at risk because the new living arrangements are approached informally. This informality is understandable because everyone is naturally buoyed (maybe blinded) by loving feelings and the bright future that the living arrangements promise.

The reality is that there are countless non-documented or poorly documented arrangements that have a sad and disastrous end.

Unfortunately, even the ones that lead to success for the disadvantaged parent often involve poor financial results for the parent or rather hollow victories for one or other reason.

For every case that I and Lawyers like me might help to resolve without resorting to Court proceedings and for every case that a Court is forced to resolve, there are countless others that do not come to the attention of anyone other than a few family members and a few friends. It’s very often just too hard for a parent to do anything about their predicament. Common refrains include … “its family” or “it’s my own fault”.

While every case is quite different these common threads run through a vast majority of them:

  • a good and caring family relationship that underlies the wish to be close and to give care when needed;
  • good intentions … and very often the best of intentions;
  • poor documentation … and very often none at all … “after all we’re family aren’t we, so we can work it out”;
  • very ordinary and common changes in life circumstances for parent or child … illness, injury, death, marital breakdown, re-partnering, job loss, financial strain, small often unspoken misunderstandings, or simply not wanting to live that close any more and the list can go on;
  • tensions that come about because of those changes … sometimes silently festering and other times arriving with a bang;
  • the parent being forced to leave without money, without a home and without the relationship that lead to the arrangement in the first place.

The possible cost of not properly documenting these joint living arrangements is the loss of a supportive and loving relationship with your child. Not to mention the collateral damage that often happens in other relationships such as those between your child and your other children or sadly damage to your own relationship with grandchildren.

This cost is a far greater one to bear than the money required to pay for good advice and the preparation of a document to properly regulate things like who pays for what, who can do what, when can or when must the arrangement end, who should receive what when it ends etc.

A well prepared document will set clear ground rules for the arrangement, especially what should happen if the arrangement has to end. If your relationship proves strong enough to carry you through any difficult times then maybe the Agreement will never have to be looked at and it can stay safely stored away. But if difficulties do arise then you should be able to rely on the Agreement and keep the tensions to a minimum.

A word of warning about documentation … the document shouldn’t be a ‘pro forma’ ‘insert your name here’ one size fits all document. Your relationship is not a ‘pro forma’ … it’s far more valuable than that.

And very importantly, the advice and documentation should happen at an early stage of the planning. Otherwise you can quickly get beyond the point of no return and then have to live with uncertainty and everything that comes with that.

The earlier you get advice, the sooner and easier it will be to talk about difficult future issues. It’s invariably far easier to come to a consensus on what to do about those difficult issues at an early stage than it is when the issue arises and tensions have arrived.

Will your dreams meet your reality …. or will they collide with your reality … you decide.

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