All About Estates

The “Talk”

Today’s blog is being brought to you by guest blogger, Jennifer Campbell, a law clerk in the Private Client Services group of Fasken LLP.

The time finally came that my brother and I have had to have “the talk” with our parents.  No no, not THAT talk.  Rather, the talk with them about whether it was time for them to “downsize” because of their age or whether they should start looking at making the necessary modifications to their home to make it more accessible to address mobility issues.

I’m certain that we are not the only children to have had to sit their parents down to talk with them about what will help them enjoy their golden years.  The thought of what would be involved in moving can be daunting.  It may be difficult for some individuals to think that they need to give up the home that they have invested so much time and energy into over the years. It may be difficult for individuals to think about having to pack up their belongings and the memories. Perhaps, the thought of downsizing makes one or both of them feel like they will be seen as being too old to do things autonomously any longer.

Our parents have full capacity, so that is not an issue for us.  We found that the best approach to this talk was to express our concerns but also to let them know that we would be supportive with whatever decision they wanted to make.  Moving from a 2 storey home to a bungalow would be ideal, but with the demand for bungalows on the rise, it is hard to find something available on the market that would allow for them to downsize and at the same time enable them to set aside money to enjoy during their retirement and later years.

If you need to have “the talk” with your parents, some other things to consider might be:

  • do your parents live in a community with easy access/close proximity to hospitals, fire departments, EMT or even their doctors and specialists?
  • how far away do they live from their children? As they get older, they will (and should) rely on help from their children.  It would be easier if they lived minutes down the road rather than an hour drive away.
  • what benefit is it for them to live in a “family size” home if it’s only two of them? Is it cost effective?  What are the annual upkeep costs?
  • what about the future? Without making them seem older than they are, remind them that they are not invincible. One of them could fall and break a hip, or there could be mobility issues.  One will, sadly, pass away before the other.
  • what are their options for downsizing -semi-detached homes, town homes, condos, assisted living homes?  All of these options would allow independence.  Pass the torch to your children and make them host holiday gatherings – Retirement should be about enjoying life.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, living  15 minutes away from my parents has allowed me to attend to the grocery shopping and run errands for them.  Now is arguably not the time to move away from family.

It is beneficial to do research before having the conversation.  Talking through the pros and cons of moving vs. spending the money to renovate, knowing that in a few years there might be a possibility that they have no choice but to move, allowed for an open conversation.  The costs associated with renovations to install a chairlift, grab bars or other safety devices or to make the home more accessible should be considered.  For older individuals, simple tasks such as maintaining the exterior of the property or even cleaning where mobility is an issue can become overwhelming, such that you should also consider the costs associated with hiring outside companies to assist with such tasks.  My hope is that this open conversation didn’t come across as us “ganging up on” or bullying them into making a decision.  Ultimately, where individuals have capacity, it’s really their choice.

Where individuals lack capacity, or perhaps they are in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, this situation would be more delicate and a strategic approach with professional assistance should be sought.  A sudden change in environment can be traumatic for individuals in these circumstances.

There are many services available to assist seniors with downsizing, such as:

The hope was that by having an open conversation with our parents about how we were feeling,  perhaps they would start to realize that this is not about taking away their independence and making them feel useless, but rather looking at it as an opportunity to enjoy their golden years and address mobility issues.  We know that the for sale sign won’t be going on the lawn tomorrow if that is what they decide to do, but having the conversation and coming up with a plan is a good first step.

For those of you who have to have the talk with your parents, be open to their thoughts and feelings and let them have time to fully consider what everything would mean for them.

About Maureen Berry
Maureen Berry is a partner in the Trusts, Wills, Estates and Charities group at Fasken. Maureen’s practice is focused on wills, estate planning, domestic and international trusts, private corporation taxation, and executive compensation. Maureen also advises charities and non-profit organizations. Working with Canadian and international families, firms, corporations and charitable organizations, she provides advice on all aspects of private client matters. She is a leading expert in the fields of tax law and estate planning. As an Adjunct Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, she teaches Advanced Estate Planning. Maureen has previously taught corporate tax and international tax at the University of Toronto and Western University, along with the Bar Admission course for up-and-coming lawyers.


  1. Karen Henderson

    June 26, 2020 - 1:09 pm

    Excellent article! More Canadians need to have this conversation before it is too late – before a fall, a broken hip and the devastation that can follow.

  2. Holly Knott

    June 29, 2020 - 4:34 am

    A great resource is Lyndsay Green’s: “A Perfect Home for a Long Life”. I’ve also enjoyed her other books on retirement planning.

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