Do you have someone living in your home that you own? I’m not talking about your dependent children or a spouse that is a co-owner. I mean an adult child, other family member, family friend, man/woman friend, etc.
If you do, you’re not alone. Throughout our cultural development, it’s normal for all sorts of reasons that you would have an adult that is not your spouse or dependent child living in your home. Totally normal. Sometimes it’s just for a short while, sometimes it’s a permanent situation, and other times it was supposed to be for a short while and now it’s… definitely no longer for a short while.
Unfortunately, what is also totally normal is that, upon your unexpected illness, hospitalization or death, this person living in your home, and the people that have the legal responsibility owed to you and your home, are now left with impossible questions: What now? What’s the deal? What do you want? What do we do?
This happens all the time, especially when you may have one live-in adult child and their not-live-in siblings walking a tight-rope of uncomfortable communication and behaviours; balancing empathy, your care, coping with your illness, market economics, their own self-interest, biases, misunderstandings, misinformation and reactions to the whole situation. As you can imagine, this will typically be executed with a spectrum of skills, usually falling towards “little” and “that actually made it worse”.
What does compassion and responsibility look like in this situation? To yourself, and to all the others that will be affected?
It starts with broad honesty about the live-in situation. What’s really going on here? Why does this situation exist? What is it for? If I can’t read it, then you don’t know it. So know it. This means taking the time to write it all down on paper, and developing a habit of engaging with the reality of the situation on a regular basis. You can do this on your own or you can be coached by professionals through the process. It needs to be done, so do it.
Once you have communicated the details of the situation along with your expectations, and doing so in a real and human way, you are taking the first steps to communicating it legally. You and your lawyer communicate to the law (in your Will) what the situation is and what the expectations are; how to deal with contingencies and to make sure someone has the legal authority to follow through on the plan.
Then you create a habit of engaging with the situation at least once a year (it can be done in one hour, seriously). That does not mean changing your Will every year. It means reflecting, making notes, having conversations about the very real situation that exists in your life and in the lives of those around you. As the situation changes, you reflect those changes in both your human and your legal communications. Rinse and repeat while exercising compassion and responsibility.
If you recognize yourself or your family in this type of situation, start with examining your own feelings about it. Find the courage to take one step towards communicating how you feel. Every time you do something honest about it, you are improving the situation. Don’t worry if you find it hard or uncomfortable. This means you’re doing it right.
Make things easy for yourself and others by doing hard things. Get in touch with us if you want help.