Estate Planning Blog Articles

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Long-Term Care Planning and Timing Move to Assisted Living

A recent JAMA Internal Medicine study titled “The Natural History of Disability and Caregiving Before and After Long-Term Care Entry” examined the health and caregiving needs of assisted-living residents. Study results highlighted the median move-in age, the average level of care needed and likely long-term needs. This article expands on the research results to highlight how your assisted-living move-in impacts elder law in your estate planning and the strategies to consider.

How Does Timing Your Move to Assisted Living Influence Long-Term Care Planning?

The study indicates that the mean age for moving into assisted living is 85, and they are less likely to be severely disabled compared to those entering nursing homes. The research identified a critical period of one to two years during which the care needs of assisted living residents could escalate to levels seen in nursing home settings. This progression underscores the importance of upfront discussions and planning regarding long-term care strategies.

Despite relatively good initial health, over half of the new residents had dementia, highlighting the need for comprehensive planning to protect financial and personal well-being in the event of cognitive decline.

Legal Strategies for Assisted Living Planning

As the average entry age into assisted living is around 85, it is crucial to prepare for possible increases in care needs, including issues related to dementia or cognitive decline. Legal and financial strategies to consider with your elder law attorney include:

  • Living Trust: Living trusts are a three-party agreement between the creator, trustee and beneficiary. With well-written terms and instructions, these trusts can protect your assets and funds.
  • Irrevocable Trust: Irrevocable trusts transfer asset ownership to the trust and can help lower your estate’s value.
  • Powers of Attorney (POA): Durable POAs give legal authority to a trusted person to oversee financial and healthcare matters when you are incapacitated.
  • Advance Care Directives: These directives specify your preferences for medical care, including decisions about treatments and care facilities.

Elder law attorneys are vital in navigating the legal complexities associated with transitions to assisted living. They help draft critical documents like living wills and powers of attorney and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.

Conclusion

Deciding to move into an assisted living facility is a significant life choice that impacts quality of life and health care in later years. Consulting with elder law professionals helps families devise flexible plans that accommodate changing care needs, ensuring that legal and financial protections are in place for residents as they transition into and within senior living communities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Optimal Timing for Assisted Living: The average age for moving into assisted living is 85, with prior home care averaging 18 hours per week.
  • Evolving Care Needs: Health and independence levels can approach those of nursing home residents within one to two years, indicating possible changes in care needs.
  • Personalized Decision Making: The decision to move into assisted living varies greatly and should be based on individual health, care requirements and personal preferences.
  • Role of Early Long-Term Care Planning: Elder law attorneys are crucial for helping seniors with early long-term care planning that protects individual rights and assets before a move to assisted living is necessary.

Reference: JAMA Internal Medicine (Nov 6, 2023) “The Natural History of Disability and Caregiving Before and After Long-Term Care Entry

Aging Well Priorities and the Need to Reauthorize the Older Americans Act

As we age, ensuring our well-being requires thorough planning and foresight. Aging well means maintaining your physical, emotional, social, and financial quality of life. While good estate planning is a must for aging well, benefits programs also help. The Older Americans Act is landmark legislation that has protected older adults’ well-being for decades.

What Is the Older Americans Act?

The Older Americans Act (OAA) provides vital services and support to older adults. Since it became law in 1965, it has funded programs such as:

  • Nutrition
  • Caregiver support
  • Community service employment

Congress reauthorized the act in 2020. Now, they can choose whether or not to reauthorize it again. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), reauthorizing this act is essential to support older adults’ well-being and meet their evolving needs.

How are Advocates Promoting Aging Well?

In May 2024, 200 advocates gathered on Capitol Hill to promote healthy aging. They emphasized the need to reauthorize the Older Americans Act and secure funding for various programs benefiting older adults. Their message was clear: healthy aging should be a right for all, not a privilege for a few.

What are the Key Priorities for Aging Well?

One advocate, Susan, shared her story during the Capitol Hill meetings. A retired teacher, Susan spoke passionately about the impact of community services funded by the OAA. After her husband passed away, she struggled with loneliness and health issues.

The local senior center became her lifeline. It provided meals, social activities, and health screenings. For Susan, these services were more than helpful; they were life-changing. Thanks to funding from the OAA, it was all possible.

Susan’s story underscores the importance of continuing these programs. Advocates push for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act to ensure seniors like Susan have access to essential services that help them age well.

How Does Estate Planning Support Aging Well?

Estate planning is a crucial aspect of aging well. It involves making decisions about your assets, healthcare, and final wishes. By making these decisions, you support your well-being in various ways. These benefits and strategies include:

  • Healthcare directives: Provide for your healthcare needs through advance directives.
  • Relieve stress: You and your family can rest easily knowing you have a clear end-of-life plan.
  • Fund management: A well-planned budget incorporating benefits and your assets can provide comfort into your later years.

Why Should You Plan Ahead?

Planning allows you to maintain control over your future. It can also relieve your loved ones from making difficult decisions during emotional times. Working with an estate planning attorney can create a comprehensive plan tailored to your needs. You can start planning by taking the following steps:

  • Assess Your Assets: List your assets, including property, savings, and investments.
  • Consider Your Healthcare Wishes: Consider what kind of medical care you want if you cannot make decisions.
  • Choose a Trusted Representative: Select someone to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so.
  • Consult with an Attorney: An estate planning attorney can help you navigate the complexities of wills, trusts, and advance directives.

Plan for Peace of Mind

Aging well involves proactive planning and ensuring access to essential services. We can continue supporting older adults’ well-being by advocating for Congress’ reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. If you’re ready to take control of your future and start planning, contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with estate planning and ensure you age well.

Key Takeaways

  • Aging Well: Maintaining health, independence, and quality of life is crucial for older adults.
  • Older Americans Act: This act funds essential services for older adults, including nutrition, caregiver support, and community programs.
  • Advocacy Efforts: Advocates are pushing to reauthorize the Older Americans Act to continue supporting these vital programs.
  • Estate Planning: Proper estate planning helps secure your future and ensure your wishes are respected.
  • Action Steps: Assess your assets, consider healthcare wishes, choose a trusted representative, and consult an estate planning attorney.

Reference: NCOA (National Council on Aging) (May 15, 2024) “Hill Day 2024: Advocates Take Aging Well Message to Lawmakers”

Legal Planning can Help Prevent Elder Abuse

In a recent case reported by FOX43, an 86-year-old father fell victim to elder abuse at the hands of his own son. According to the report, the son stole $153,168 from his father. This story is a painful reminder of how even trusted individuals can exploit the vulnerability of our elderly loved ones. Likewise, it reminds us to be vigilant of elder abuse to prevent these heartbreaking situations.

What Is Elder Abuse, and Why Is It a Growing Concern?

Elder abuse is a serious issue that affects many older adults. It includes physical, emotional, and financial harm, and the perpetrators are often trusted individuals. Many elderly people rely on others for their daily needs, making them vulnerable to abuse.

To make matters worse, elder abuse is becoming more common as the elderly population grows. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) states that one in ten Americans aged 60 and older has experienced some form of elder abuse.

How can Legal Planning Protect Elders with POAS?

Legal planning can help protect an elderly person’s wishes and their assets. Elder law attorneys can assist in creating essential documents like wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. These documents guide the management of an elderly person’s assets and who will make decisions on their behalf.

A power of attorney (POA) is especially important. It’s a legal document that allows someone to make decisions for another person. If an elderly individual cannot make decisions for themselves, a POA is vital. A trustworthy person holding power of attorney can prevent financial abuse and protect the elderly person’s needs.

What are the Warning Signs of Elder Abuse?

Recognizing the signs of elder abuse is crucial for prevention. Some common warning signs include:

  • Unexplained injuries or bruises
  • Sudden changes in financial situation
  • Withdrawal from normal activities
  • Poor hygiene or living conditions
  • Fear or anxiety around certain individuals

What Steps can Be Taken to Prevent Elder Abuse?

  • Regular Check-Ins: Regularly check in on your elderly loved ones. Frequent visits or phone calls can help you notice any changes in their behavior or living conditions.
  • Educate Yourself: Learn about the signs of elder abuse and stay informed about how to protect your loved ones.
  • Legal Safeguards: Work with an elder law attorney to create legal documents that protect the elderly person’s assets and outline their care preferences.

How can Elder Law Help Protect Seniors?

Elder law encompasses various legal issues affecting older adults. These include estate planning, healthcare, and guardianship. An elder law attorney can help create a comprehensive plan to protect the elderly individual and their assets. Some strategies include setting up trusts to manage assets, appointing guardians or conservators, and drafting advance healthcare directives.

Take your first step toward securing a comprehensive estate plan; schedule a consultation today.

Key Takeaways

  • Elder Abuse Awareness: Stay alert to warning signs of elder abuse. Sudden financial changes, unexplained injuries, and strange behaviors are potential warning signs.
  • Importance of Legal Planning: Elder law can protect your loved ones. Leverage legal tools like powers of attorney and trusts.
  • Role of Estate Planning: Estate planning isn’t just for distributing assets after someone dies. Instead, it can protect them during their lifetime.
  • Consult an Elder Law Attorney: Aging well can be a challenge. Professional legal advice can make it safer and easier.

References:  FOX43 (Oct. 22, 2018) “Son charged for stealing $153,168 from 86-year-old father, officials talk elder abuse warning signs | fox43.com”

NCOA (National Council on Aging) (Feb. 23, 2021) “Get the Facts on Elder Abuse”

Caregiving and Estate Planning Provides Peace of Mind for All Generations

If your goal is to keep the farm, ranch, or small business in the family, planning, including estate planning and caregiving, is the number one strategy to making it happen. Families may dissolve the farm or business without advance planning to pay for long-term care expenses. A recent article from AgWeek, “Caregiving plans can provide peace of mind for farming and ranching families,” explains what needs to be done.

Part of the issue is that most ranchers and business owners won’t qualify for Medicaid because they own a significant asset. Having to sell off something they’ve worked their entire lives to build is often a result of no planning.

If you have a long-term care insurance policy, it needs to be carefully reviewed to determine what conditions need to be met for benefits to be paid. For example, most policies have a “waiting period,” so you’ll need to plan how to pay for caregiving during the months before the policy kicks in.

There’s also confusion about the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is health insurance for medical expenses, while Medicaid is usually used for long-term care and caregiving needs. However, Medicaid is a needs-based program. An estate planning attorney can help the family determine what needs to happen in advance, whether the goal is to protect the farm, ranch, or small business while helping the aging parent become eligible for Medicaid.

Estate planning includes planning for incapacity, which can occur at any time but is more likely as we age. Suppose the individual hasn’t completed a power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and other medical directives. In that case, the family will need to go to court to obtain conservatorship or guardianship to take over the person’s financial matters and make healthcare decisions on their behalf. An estate planning attorney can help the family prepare the documents and create a plan.

Having an estate plan in place is also another means of protecting the family’s assets from elder abuse. Everything needs to be documented, and records need to be well-organized so every family member knows where documents are, where assets are and the plan for the inevitable events of aging.

Meeting with an estate planning attorney to create the last will and testament, power of attorney and all other planning documents can minimize the stress and costs involved. Without planning, everything becomes far more complicated, costly and stressful for all concerned.

Reference: AgWeek (May 14, 2024) “Caregiving plans can provide peace of mind for farming and ranching families”

What Do You Do If Elderly Family Member Is Being Financially Abused?

Financial elder abuse is when a family member, caregiver, or another individual illegally or improperly uses an elderly person’s assets for their own personal gain without the knowledge or understanding of the elderly person. A recent article from The Sun Times News, “Elder Financial Abuse Can Be A Family Affair,” notes the coming “Great Wealth Transfer” of Baby Boomer assets could lead to a dramatic increase in elder financial abuse.

Even minor memory loss can be exploited by scammers and, sadly, family members. With nearly seven million Americans having moderate cognitive issues, the possibility of financial abuse is growing. Boomers live longer than any previous generation, translating into huge healthcare costs in post-retirement years. At the same time, their children and grandchildren face challenges, including student debt and high homebuying costs. The combination of these issues isn’t pretty.

A contributing factor is the increased misinformation about Medicaid, wills, trusts, guardianship and power of attorney. When seniors make their wishes known and formalize them through an estate plan and trusts to protect their assets, the chances of them becoming victims of exploitation can be minimized.

In many cases, isolation leads to vulnerability. One woman allowed her son’s ex-wife to move into her Colorado home to live with her elderly mother. The ex-wife fell victim to scammers herself and convinced the elderly mother to send two checks totaling $70,000 to two scammers, one claiming to be running a children’s mission in Nigeria and another rescuing animals in Malaysia. The elderly woman’s bank didn’t question the large checks, which it should have. The ex-wife also forged checks worth more than $10,000 on the elderly woman’s account. The promised caregiving never happened, and while the woman was arrested and prosecuted, the family will never recover the money as the ex-wife is unemployable—she was a bookkeeper.

The National Center on Elder Abuse suggests only one in 24 cases of elder abuse is reported to authorities. If abuse of any kind is suspected, it should be reported immediately to the police in the jurisdiction where the senior lives. Financial statements, bank statements, credit card bills, canceled checks and evidence must be provided. Even if you don’t have evidence, suspected abuse should be reported.

Families can be torn apart when heirs battle over inheritances. Two means of prevention are creating an estate plan by an experienced estate planning attorney, with trusted family members or professionals to serve as Power of Attorney and executor. The second is to maintain ongoing contact with the senior, if possible, in person and, if not, via phone calls, video calls and visits. The more involved you are with an aging person’s life, the better your chances of uncovering or preventing financial elder abuse.

Reference: The Sun Times News (May 8, 2024) “Elder Financial Abuse Can Be A Family Affair”

How Do I Create End-of-Life Plan?

Any family facing the end-of-life of a loved one deserves to know what their loved ones want, as observed in an article from The New York Times, “How to Make End-of-Life Planning Less Stressful.” Hosting a family gathering with pizza and chocolate cake made the conversation easier for one family.

The reporter learned things about her family she never knew. Her parents didn’t want a memorial service because, as they told her, they don’t like big gatherings, alive or dead. A sister wants her memorial service held at Starbucks. The discussion included the possibility of having cremated remains pressed into a vinyl record of the person’s choice (her father’s comment). Taking a lighter approach worked for this family.

Here are some suggestions to start this important, albeit difficult, conversation:

First, ask the family members involved if they’d be open to a family meeting and set a date. It could be done via Zoom, although in-person is better if they are far-flung.

You could bring up a news story about dementia and say it got you thinking about how important it is to talk about these issues now. If you are the older family member, tell your loved ones you are putting your affairs in order and want to spare them the added stress of figuring out your healthcare and funeral wishes.

Create a document for the family to review and a checklist of topics and prompts to review. Two key areas to discuss are deciding who will serve as your health care proxy if you cannot make health care decisions and what directives you want in a living will.

Once these are decided, your estate planning attorney can make it enforceable by preparing a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Copies should be given to loved ones and your doctor.

Another topic to cover, often overlooked, is what you or your aging parents want to do with the remaining years. You might ask, “What is undone in your life?” You may learn your parents have always wanted to visit an ancestral village in Italy or travel to see the Northern Lights. How can you help them make this happen? If your aging parent is a widow or widower, could an adult child travel with them?

These are significant questions and can’t always be resolved in one meeting. Having “check-in” conversations throughout the year will foster further communication between family members. This may also expand to issues like ensuring that their home is accessible for aging, from a ramp for the front steps to properly installed grab bars in the shower.

The conversation should also address the creation of a last will and testament. If your aging parents don’t have a will and you do, share your estate planning attorney’s contact information. If none of you has an estate plan in place, these conversations could help all the family move this critical task to the forefront.

Reference: The New York Times (March 8, 2024) “How to Make End-of-Life Planning Less Stressful”

Safeguarding against Financial Exploitation: Estate Planning for Cognitive Decline

In this overview of estate planning for cognitive decline, we examine signs of dementia and the role of estate planning in protecting our aging loved ones. The National Institute on Aging (NIH) article, “Managing Money Problems for People With Dementia,” sparked our discussion on estate plans and cognitive decline.

It is becoming more common for families to encounter challenges and new issues in needing to help loved ones safeguard assets from fraud and exploitation. This article shares practical strategies to protect vulnerable individuals when we notice signs of dementia.

Understanding the Risks: Fraud and Financial Exploitation

Cognitive decline, particularly associated with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, poses significant risks for financial exploitation. Individuals grappling with dementia may struggle to manage bills, discern trustworthy individuals, and comprehend complex financial transactions. This vulnerability makes them prime targets for fraud and abuse. Here’s a closer look at common forms of exploitation:

  • Multiple Payments: Those with cognitive decline may inadvertently make multiple payments for the same service, leading to financial losses.
  • Misuse of Power of Attorney: Trusted individuals, including family members or attorneys-in-fact, may abuse their authority by making unauthorized cash transfers or mismanaging assets.
  • Undervalued Property Sales: Patients may be misled about the value of their property, resulting in sales below market value to the detriment of their estate.

Protecting against Fraud: Legal Safeguards and Capacity Assessment

To combat financial exploitation, it’s essential to understand the legal safeguards available and to assess the individual’s capacity to enter into agreements. Here are key considerations:

Legal Capacity: Contracts and agreements are enforceable only if both parties have the legal capacity to enter them. Individuals with Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairment may lack this capacity, rendering contracts voidable.

Capacity Assessment: Assessing mental capacity is crucial in determining the validity of agreements. Physicians, family members and legal experts play a vital role in providing testimony and evidence of cognitive decline.

Estate Planning’s Role in Protecting Our Aging Loved Ones

Signs of dementia are sometimes slow to appear or hard to detect. The National Institute of Aging pointed out that financial management is one of the first signs of cognitive decline affecting a loved one.

Estate planning helps prevent loved ones with dementia from losing money or property to scammers or unscrupulous people. It is crucial to establish financial powers of attorney before signs of dementia and enable a trusted family member to oversee bank accounts and pay bills for a loved one. Trusts are another tool that helps to safeguard a loved one’s assets.

Estate Planning and Cognitive Decline Key Takeaways:

  • Early Intervention: Recognize signs of cognitive decline and take proactive steps to safeguard assets.
  • Legal Expertise: Seek guidance from attorneys experienced in elder law to navigate complex estate planning and financial management issues.
  • Family Vigilance: Family members and caregivers should remain vigilant to watch for signs of financial exploitation and take prompt action to protect their loved ones.

Conclusion

Estate planning for cognitive decline requires careful consideration and proactive measures to protect vulnerable individuals from fraud and financial exploitation. Families can confidently navigate these challenges by understanding legal safeguards, assessing capacity, and seeking expert guidance. Are you ready to safeguard your loved one’s future? Schedule a consultation with our team today and take the first step towards comprehensive estate planning.

Reference: National Institute on Aging (NIH) (Oct. 3, 2023) “Managing Money Problems for People With Dementia

Baby Boomers are Retiring and the Need for Elder Law Attorneys Is Rising

Millions of baby boomers are reaching retirement, facing age-related challenges, and making waves in healthcare, housing and financial markets. Elder law is emerging as part of a holistic estate plan to address medical, financial and incapacity issues as we age.

Beyond their legacy, baby boomers and their caregivers are planning for Medicaid, incapacity medical and financial oversight, and legally documenting end-of-life decisions. Based on Yahoo Finance’s article, “Elder Law Is More Important Than Ever. Why? Baby Boomers,” this blog examines elder law, the increasing necessity for attorneys in this field and where it fits in estate planning.

What Is Elder Law?

Elder law revolves around respecting individuals’ wishes and preferences, while protecting them from financial risks and court intervention if incapacitated. Elder law is the legal means to protect aging individuals and preserve their autonomy.

Elder law is a comprehensive legal framework that spans a wide range of issues as we age, from health and long-term care planning to surrogate decision-making and estate administration. In this complex landscape, elder law attorneys play a pivotal role, offering invaluable counsel to protect their clients’ rights and well-being. This compassionate legal practice is dedicated to ensuring the financial, medical, and holistic well-being of older adults.

Why Elder Law Is Necessary in Today’s Estate Planning

The impact of the baby boomer generation on the United States is staggering. A Census Bureau article, “U.S. Older Population Grew From 2010 to 2020 at Fastest Rate Since 1880 to 1890,” revealed that in 2020, 16.8% percent or 55.8 million people were at least 65 years old. As this massive generation enters retirement, the country’s demographic landscape is undergoing a seismic shift, posing significant questions on how to protect an aging loved one’s independence, while ensuring their well-being. This is where the role of elder law in estate planning becomes crucial.

The complexities surrounding asset management, healthcare decisions and estate planning have escalated. Seniors now possess a substantial portion of the nation’s wealth, necessitating sophisticated strategies to preserve and distribute assets effectively. Advancements in medical care have also prolonged life expectancy, while introducing intricate legal considerations regarding autonomy and treatment preferences.

Strategies to Address Evolving Needs – Estate Planning Meets Elder Law

Trusts and estates play a pivotal role in asset management and succession planning. Trusts serve as tools for individuals to dictate the management and distribution of their assets during their lifetime and after death. An individual appoints a trustee to administer and distribute estate assets according to their wishes for peace of mind.

In tandem with trusts, wills are estate planning instruments delineating how assets are distributed among heirs upon one’s passing. Whether through probate proceedings or overseen by an executor, the orderly transfer of assets hinges upon the clarity and validity of the individual’s will. By proactively addressing these matters, individuals can mitigate potential disputes and ensure that their legacy is preserved according to their intentions.

Addressing Incapacity and Conservatorship

As individuals age, the prospect of incapacitation becomes a pertinent concern, necessitating preemptive measures. Through mechanisms like powers of attorney (POAs) or advance directives, individuals can designate a trusted person to manage their affairs in the event of physical or mental impairment. Medical and financial POAs empower individuals to safeguard their well-being and interests and maintain autonomy, even in challenging circumstances.

Elder Law and Estate Planning Key Takeaways:

  • What is Elder Law: Elder law encompasses a wide array of legal services tailored to the unique needs of older adults and individuals with special needs.
  • The Catalyst to Rising Elder Law Needs: Baby boomers’ retirement has fueled a surge in demand for elder law attorneys, underscoring the importance of specialized legal expertise in navigating complex issues.
  • Strategies For the Aging Population: Trusts, wills, POAs and advance directives are essential for elder law and estate planning.
  • Proactive Planning: A holistic estate plan addresses disability and conservatorship concerns of preserving autonomy and safeguarding one’s interests in later life.

Conclusion

As the demographic landscape continues to evolve, the role of elder law attorneys expands to protect and honor the rights and well-being of older adults. Individuals proactively address their unique needs by understanding the nuances of trusts, estates and related legal instruments and charting a course for a secure and dignified future.

If you’re seeking guidance on elder law matters, don’t hesitate to contact a qualified attorney to explore your options and safeguard your legacy.

References: Census Bureau (May 25, 2023) U.S. Older Population Grew From 2010 to 2020 at Fastest Rate Since 1880 to 1890 and Yahoo Finance (Sep 13, 2023) “Elder Law Is More Important Than Ever. Why? Baby Boomers”

Estate Planning Strategies to Care for Aging Parents

Our parents are pillars of support along our journey through life, guiding us through the ups and downs with unwavering love and care. As our parents age gracefully, we can choose estate planning strategies that support them along their journey to retirement and beyond. These strategies address long-term care and living arrangements for our parents’ well-being and peace of mind. We explore why caring for aging parents in estate planning is necessary to preserve their dignity, security and legacy.

Comprehensive Estate Planning Strategies to Care for Aging Parents

Modern estate planning goes beyond wealth protection to create a roadmap for the future. It encompasses health care decisions, financial management and a delicate balance between independence and security. Kiplinger’s article, “Estate Planning for Your Aging Parents: A Delicate Balance,” helps us discuss estate planning strategies to care for aging parents. An estate plan with these strategies provides clarity and guidance to loved ones on aging parents’ wishes, while retaining control for aging parents over financial and health-related matters.

Estate Planning for Aging Parents – How to Balance Independence and Care

Balancing a parent’s independence and care as they age is challenging. Declining cognition and physical health increase the need for legally documented healthcare wishes and appointed representatives to manage financial affairs.

Aging adults value autonomy and may be reluctant to relinquish control over their daily lives. Open and honest communication is the key to finding this balance. Conversations should be encouraged about medical wishes and future goals with an aging parent or parents. An estate plan can then be created that honors their decisions.

Consider how a trust can protect a parent’s wealth, with a trustee overseeing their estate’s administration and asset distribution. A will is another vital estate-planning component, naming beneficiaries to simplify the distribution of assets after a parent passes away.

Plan for long-term care and Medicaid. An irrevocable trust can preserve your parents’ assets during Medicaid approval, while income-producing investments supplement their income.

Incapacity Planning to Respect an Aging Parent’s Health Care Preferences

As parents age, their healthcare needs may become more complex, necessitating careful planning for incapacity. Advanced directives and health care proxies empower parents to designate trusted individuals to make medical decisions, ensuring that their preferences for medical treatments and end-of-life care are honored with dignity and respect.

Tax Planning: Minimizing Burdens for Heirs

Tax planning is another central element in a comprehensive estate plan. Aging parents passing their wealth to the next generation look for ways to minimize the tax burden on their beneficiaries. Gifting, establishing trusts and utilizing tax-advantaged accounts can reduce taxes, maximize inheritance and transfer their wealth more efficiently.

Key Takeaways:

  • Aging Parents: We can choose estate planning strategies that support aging parents in their journey to retirement and beyond.
  • Balance Independence and Care: Encourage conversations about medical wishes and future goals with an aging parent or parents. An estate plan can then be created that honors their decisions.
  • Incapacity Planning: Advanced directives and health care proxies empower parents to designate trusted individuals to make medical decisions,
  • Tax Planning: Gifting, establishing trusts and utilizing tax-advantaged accounts can reduce taxes, maximize inheritance and transfer their wealth more efficiently.

Conclusion

Caring for aging parents in estate planning is practical and necessary. It is also a profound expression of love and gratitude. Embracing this responsibility with compassion, empathy and diligence helps our parents navigate this stage of life with dignity, security and peace of mind.

If you’re ready to embark on this estate planning journey for your aging parents, our experienced legal team guides you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more and confidently start planning.

Reference: Kiplinger (February 2024) Estate Planning for Your Aging Parents: A Delicate Balance.”

How to Protect Your Spouse when Diagnosis Is Dementia

Few illnesses are as terrifying as dementia, for which there is no cure. If estate planning is in place, it may need to be adjusted to address new, more imminent issues. Reviewing the family situation from a legal and financial aspect is critical, and there is no time for delay, explains a recent article from Morningstar, “’I don’t want my wife to lose everything’: I’ve been diagnosed with dementia –I suddenly could not spell or write legibly.”

There are a number of steps to be taken to smooth the path ahead. First is to update your will and create a financial power of attorney. Don’t try to do this without the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.

This may also be the time to reassess your investment portfolio based on your new financial plan and risk tolerance.

An Advanced Healthcare Directive will inform doctors what actions you want them to take when you cannot make those decisions for yourself. You may want to list your wife as your healthcare proxy to carry out these decisions, but be mindful of the pressures put on a marriage when serious healthcare issues occur. Your spouse will need emotional support as well, and you’ll want to have a successor to your spouse for both the healthcare and POA documents.

Share your situation with trusted family and friends to create a team–a community of people who can provide support, part of which will be updating beneficiaries. Now would also be the time to record instructions for access to devices, documents, and even daily habits.

Long-term care insurance will help with expenses and should serve as an example for anyone reading this article. Policies should be purchased early in life when they are relatively affordable to help alleviate the financial burden of nursing home costs.

An estate planning attorney and financial advisor will help you take an accounting for assets, expenses, and projected long-term care costs. You’ll want a team approach to provide as much guidance as possible.

When to put your long-term care policies into payout status is a difficult decision. You’ll need to time this with a Medicaid plan, which your elder law estate planning attorney will be able to help with.

Now may also be the time to create a trust and divest assets to make it through the five-year Medicaid look-back, using your long-term care policy in the next five years.

There are exceptions to the five-year look-back rule for Medicaid eligibility. They include paying off debts, buying medical devices, or making home improvements to improve accessibility. However, eligibility depends upon income and other assets.

Some states, including Florida and New York, have rules exempting homes from assets calculated by Medicaid under certain circumstances. California eliminated an asset limit this year, making a person’s home automatically safe from Medicaid while they are living, but this does not mean it’s exempt from the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program.

Working with a team of professionals, including an estate planning attorney, and having the support of family and trusted friends will be important as time goes by and the disease progresses.

Reference: Morningstar (Feb. 25, 2024) “’I don’t want my wife to lose everything’: I’ve been diagnosed with dementia –I suddenly could not spell or write legibly”

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