When you think about Santa Claus, which of his jolly qualities attract the most attention?
While his exact age is unknown, I believe it is safe to call him an older adult since he has been around for generations.
Santa may be viewed as an active and independent older adult since he is still living in his own home, working a full-time job, and regularly traveling around the world. He has a sharp enough mind to remember every person and keep a list of who is naughty or nice. He engages in strenuous physical activity, such as lifting heavy packs and climbing down and up chimneys.
However, Santa has an equal number of attributes that aren’t as enviable. After all, he is always seen wearing the same clothes. He is overweight and at risk for malnutrition due to a poor diet (too many cookies). Santa has questionable judgment (is it really safe to be up on a snow-covered roof?) and he believes in elves and flying reindeer (perhaps due to hallucinations brought on by too many medications?).
Whether Santa is an active and independent individual or one with questionable physical and cognitive health who may be on the verge of a crisis, both he and Mrs. Claus could benefit from a visit to an elder law attorney (and a physician, too, but that is another column).
Santa hopefully took care of some planning many years ago by writing a will. If Mrs. Claus is already gone, can you imagine the fighting amongst the elves if Santa hadn’t decided who gets what or how much? There still might be some resentment among his survivors if he decides to distribute his assets unequally.
But if he has been smart and explained his reasoning at the time he makes his decisions, there is a greater chance for peace and harmony at the North Pole.
Even more important than a will are powers of attorney, so that he can decide now who would be best positioned to assist him in the future with legal/financial matters or health care decisions should he become unable to manage these issues on his own.
Another document that Santa may want to consider is a trust. There are many types of trusts. Planning ahead with this tool can make sure that assets are preserved in order for someone to continue his work of gift-giving and use his established workshop as a base of operations. A trust can also establish arrangements for who, where and how the reindeer will be taken care of in the event that they outlive him.
We haven’t discussed Mrs. Claus since we don’t know as much about her, but potential scenarios exist for her to become a caregiver for Santa. They could both experience health issues that require long-term care at home or in a care community. Guidance for Mrs. Claus and the elves in advocating for and managing the day-to-day care of a frail, older loved one can be found in an elder law practice that includes care coordination services.
Good intentions without the execution of a plan to fulfill those intentions are of no benefit to Santa or his family. This holiday season, give yourself and your loved ones the gift of planning.
An easy way to begin can happen in the comfort of your own home. A free online workshop (repeated weekly) is available here: https://events.keystoneelderlaw.com/estate-planning-webinar/. Upcoming dates include December 14th, December 20th, and December 28th. Registration for each session opens one week prior to each date. In person workshops will also be offered on various dates in January. The right plans will keep yours and Santa’s sleighs full!
Karen Kaslow, Care Coordinator