Mallory McGrath  discusses Why It’s Important to Talk about Aging and End-of-Life Planning with Your Family

Small Business Canada

Founder & CEO Viive Planning

Mallory McGrath founded Viive Planning in November 2020 to help families plan collaboratively for the aging and end-of-life process. Her experience as an estate litigation law clerk made her realize that families were battling over small amounts of money due to a lack of communication from parents to adult children before their death. She was inspired to fill a gap in traditional estate planning and established Viive Planning to enable families to plan for their future holistically and collaboratively.

She firmly believes that families need to avoid the destructive cocktail of grief and greed and have open conversations that prepare them for the future stages of life. Her mission through Viive Planning is to normalize conversations around death and change societal mindsets about aging and end-of-life planning. In addition, she wants to positively impact clients by educating them as she understands the complexities of family dynamics and the road ahead.

Mallory has obtained a Bachelor of Music Performance degree at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. She is also a Certified Executor Advisor, has trained in meditation, and studied thanatology and grief literacy.

What was the idea behind starting  Viive Planning? And what are you hoping to achieve through your work?

I spent a decade working as an estate litigation law clerk. By the time families come to our office, they were destroyed. You can’t really bounce back from suing your own sibling. As I reflected on the families I worked with, I began to realize that this could also affect my own family. Generally, as families, most of us don’t like to talk about death and money. So parents avoid the topic with their children and don’t share their wishes for the future. I started to realize that in order to promote communication within family units, we had to change the mindset of those family members. We had to make talking about aging, end-of-life and death normal for a family. I founded Viive Planning to provide education, a holistic and well-rounded view of aging and end-of-life planning, and to help families avoid the costly and devastating effects of estate litigation. 

Our hope is that by providing a more inclusive and collaborative style of planning for families, they will increasingly normalize these types of discussions. This is especially the case as we are now looking at planning longer post-retirement periods, that could last another 30 years!

How effective is your company in helping families plan and talk about normalizing for the aging and end-of-life process and in letting them know the importance of advance planning?

Self-reflection and making space and time for it are key. We need to allow ourselves the time to think about what it will be like to age and to anticipate a decline in our bodies. We need to acknowledge that we will one day die and that we have no control over how or when that will happen. A lot of clients have never really given themselves permission to think about these topics. Patience and understanding are key, and letting a person process a question is essential. It can take some people minutes to answer my questions, while others may need weeks or months. 

Every family is complex in its own way. By the time children reach adulthood, you have several individuals, and sometimes divergent, viewpoints, attitudes and emotional responses around planning, life, money and death within that very family. Add in the possibility of more adults (the children’s partners) with different upbringings, priorities and viewpoints, and you get a potentially explosive combination! This is why conversation is key in our process.

Once we are able to have those conversations, then we can start planning how to talk to their families. Every family has its own dynamic, so we adapt to the preferred communication styles of the family unit. This is why Viive Planning is so unique – we tailor our approach to facilitate, not dictate. This process has proven effective with many families now, and it is what sets us apart from traditional estate planners. 

Mallory McGrath  discusses Why It's Important to Talk about Aging and End-of-Life Planning with Your Family Share on X

After more than two years of seeing pandemic-related death counts in the daily news, what role do planning and conversations play in resolving or avoiding costly conflicts in families?

Planning is more important than ever before, and in my opinion, the trauma of the pandemic will define how today’s living generations will move forward. Too many families have been hit by the unpredictability of a Covid-related death of a loved one. Thousands of people who were expecting to live another 5, 10 or even 15 good years in their old age passed away too soon. This left families scrambling to figure out an estate, financials, generational wealth and so many other issues, at a time of high emotional need and low social connection due to public health restrictions.

Where 3 out of 4 Canadians 65+ will have at least one common chronic disease, what effects the generational wealth transfers will have over the next 10 years?

We don’t really think about how expensive it is to live a long life. Through the middle part of our life, the 30s-60s, we’re focused on earning a good living, taking care of our home and our family, and saving for a future. But when we say “future”, we are typically thinking of retirement. We are envisioning the type of lifestyle we want to have while we are still healthy. But what we don’t tend to plan for is living a long life, (say to 95 years old) and what that will cost us both financially and emotionally, to live those 75+ years while declining physically and mentally.

Given the fact that we know that 73% of Canadians 65+ have at least one common chronic disease, this should compel us to think about what those aging years will look like for us as individuals, and the impact it will have on the generations that will follow. Living in high-quality retirement residences, assisted living homes and long-term care homes, costs a considerable amount of money. Even living in your own home until you die (which 100% of Baby boomers when polled stated they wished for) comes with a great cost. Mobility and fall prevention home upgrades, personal support workers and nursing services can all come at a significant cost for individuals, even if they save hundreds of millions of dollars to our health care system annually. Not to mention the increase in popularity of reverse mortgages, which will also affect the value of a property passed down to a person’s beneficiaries. 

These investments in an aging person’s wellbeing will impact the financial and estate legacy that they may be able to leave for future generations. Having a realistic look at what aging may cost will be essential not only for the aging person but for their children, who may be counting on a windfall as part of their own financial planning.

Why do you think planning for a long aging process is key for Millennials and Gen Xers, who should expect to live well into their 80s? Will it prove to be a helpful tool?

We are now just starting to realize the potential impact the aging Baby Boomers will have on our government programs, health care system, community supports, long-term care living, and more. The sheer size of this generation, and the fact that they outnumber younger generations who cannot contribute as significantly as them to supporting those systems, is something that is a real concern for many planners. Right now, the average age expectancy is 86 for men and 89 for women – but in all likelihood with further medical advancements, it could be into the 90s by the time that Gen X and Millennials reach retirement age. 

Millennials are also one of the first generations that will likely retire without an employer’s pension. Who is planning for that individual, and what are our governments doing to ensure our current systems survive the upcoming aging pandemic? 

What is your expert advice and guidance on the emotional and mental well-being for end-of-life planning of a family member? 

End-of-life planning is never going to be fun. But it’s important that when you bring up this topic with your family, you share that your intention is to ensure aging and generational wellbeing. You also want to show patience and understanding, as there is a lot of discomfort around the topic. And try more than once, give gentle nudges.

When I’m talking with Gen X or Millennial children of Baby Boomers, I get them to start planning for their own future first. If they can start their own aging and end-of-life planning at a much younger age, and then share that experience with their Baby Boomer parents, their Boomer parents are more likely to come around to the idea because it wasn’t about them getting older or about them dying. It was about their children taking a very responsible step towards planning for their own future. Aging and end-of-life planning can be a gift to a family. 

If you were to find yourself incapacitated after an accident, do you know what your loved ones would do? Would they know where to find your insurance information, how to pay your bills, and whether or not you would want to be resuscitated? There are so many things that need to be considered that we just don’t talk about. 

If you are worried about talking to your children about your future plans, remember that the burden will be far greater if you don’t have the conversation. There are too many “what now” scenarios that can come up as a loved one age and eventually dies, and even after death. If we have the conversations now, in a healthy and productive manner, it will be better in the long run for the emotional stability and unification of the entire family unit. 

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