I was at a family reunion recently, and I overheard a lady say that one of the challenges of getting old is seeing your parents aging. This lady is probably in her late 50’s and she is the caregiver for her mom, who is in her 80’s, with very serious health problems.
Speaking with the owner of a relatively large business recently, he said that many of his employees are needing to take time off from work. This is because they are caregivers for their parents. This is a sign of the times, and there are an increasing number of people dealing with these issues.
This One is for the Caregivers
Most of our presentations and educational content are focused on our clients, whether its retirees in their 60’s or seniors in their 70’s and 80’s. We do estate planning across the generations, but given the increasing number of caregivers taking care of their parents, I wanted to reach out to the caregivers. The title of this blog “What to think about when the unthinkable happens”, refers to what we should think about and do as caregivers, if a parent becomes sick or passes away.
Estate planning is really about the management of control and access. The ‘control’ aspect refers to who is making the decisions, and ‘access’ refers to what is allowed with regard to the finances. If my client has a stroke, or gets dementia, they may have mental faculty issues. As a result, they may not be able to manage their own affairs as they used to. If you notice your parent’s health is declining, as caregivers you need to consider the following:
Power of Attorney Document
The first thing you need is a document called a financial power of attorney, which shifts control when someone needs assistance. There are essentially two types of Power of Attorney documents:
A springing power of attorney is based on the idea that you sign the document while you have the capacity, so that should anything happen, your child can take over. The problem is that nobody ever admits that they are losing capacity, especially if they have dementia. It then becomes a battle if the child needs to use the power of attorney, to act on behalf of a parent.
The other type is a durable power of attorney, which you sign while you have your mental faculties. However, the document is effective immediately even if your child may not use it immediately. This type of Power of Attorney is preferred in most situations. Since dementia is progressive in nature, there will likely be a gradual decline in a senior’s mental capacity. Over time, the child caregiver will need to take more responsibility to help their parent. Eventually the time will come when the parent cannot manage on their own. This is the time when the durable power of attorney will work, and is the primary way to plan for someone’s incapacity.
Asset Protection is Important
Another suggestion is to consider doing some asset protection, using an asset protection trust. I recommend these trusts for middle class and upper middle class families who are concerned about long term care expenses. We can work with you to create these trusts. The system in this country often results in seniors going broke if they need long term care. Nursing homes in Pennsylvania cost $180,000 a year and most people can’t afford to pay that. Only when you are broke, can you get Medicaid benefits to pay the nursing home. Medicaid is the only payment source for long term care, and it’s important to understand the rules of Medicaid. One of the rules is that if you have transferred assets to an asset protection trust ahead of time, those assets are protected from long term care costs.
We can Help You to Find Long Term Care Facilities
If you have a parent who is starting to slip, they may need long term care at a later stage. Please take the time to understand the different types of facilities available to provide care for your loved one. We help our clients with this aspect, and we have a social worker on our team who is familiar with the different facilities. We help people find good care, which I believe is part of doing good estate planning.
Take Care of Yourself
While you are taking care of a loved one, if you are a caregiver, you must get the resources to help you to take care of yourself. Here is link to a website with information on caregiver resources: https://www.hospiceandpalliativecareofkodiak.org/caregiver-resources. Jennifer who started this company did so after being a caregiver. She realized the many challenges that caregivers face from an emotional standpoint. You are not in this alone and you also need the support.
Losing a Loved One
When we talk about the ‘unthinkable’ happening, we are talking about losing a loved one. Perhaps you’re the executor and you are wondering what you should do first if your loved one passes away. Let me reassure you that there is no legal or financial emergency that needs addressing in the first 48 hours. If you have just lost someone dear to you, allow yourself time to grieve. When it comes to the estate administration process, it is a marathon and not a sprint. This is especially pertinent when it comes to probate cases. Please contact the Sechler Law Firm or your estate planning attorney, to get help with the estate administration process. For more information, visit https://sechlerlawfirm.com/cranberry-township-probate-lawyer/.