Category: Assisted Living

Alternatives to Avoid Guardianship as You Age

Alternatives to Avoid Guardianship as You Age

Individuals often overlook strategies in their estate planning to avoid restrictive guardianship if they become incapacitated. While guardianship protects individuals who cannot decide or act for themselves, it can inadvertently strip them of their autonomy. There are alternatives to avoid guardianship as you age.

The restrictive nature of a court-appointed guardian acting on behalf of an impaired individual doesn’t account for that person’s wishes. In a video titled “Alternatives to Guardianship,” The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) highlights essential guardianship alternatives that preserve a person’s autonomy. This article discusses the need for protection as we age, what guardianship is and how powers of attorney (POAs) are alternative estate planning strategies that give individuals more control over decision-making.

Aging and estate planning go hand-in-hand. Estate plans with strategies that address cognitive decline and incapacity protect you from financial risks, including misuse of assets or unauthorized withdrawals. When it comes to healthcare, individuals must retain control over medical decisions. They may not be honored if you are incapacitated without legally documented healthcare wishes.

Guardianship involves the legal authority granted to a court-appointed guardian to act and make decisions for a person who is physically or mentally incapable. The guardian oversees the person’s health, medical care and property. When an individual is evaluated and deemed incapacitated, a court will assign a guardian.

A guardian’s responsibilities include making personal care decisions, overseeing living arrangements and handling their financial affairs. They are required to keep detailed records and check in with the court regularly.  However, guardianships are often appointed without considering alternatives, and they strip an individual of all decision-making authority, including where they live, what they eat and whether they will get any medical care. ACTEC notes that guardianship can be hurtful to the family, in addition to being an expensive process.

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that appoints someone you trust to act on your behalf. Only a durable power of attorney is valid if you are incapacitated. There are different POAs to protect your financial interests and medical wishes.

To prevent financial risks if you are incapacitated, a financial power of attorney names an agent with authority over financial matters, such as accessing bank accounts, paying bills and managing retirement accounts, real estate and investments.

A medical power of attorney is a healthcare or advance directive that allows someone else to make medical decisions based on your wishes. Often called a health care agent, this person follows your medical treatment as outlined in the document.

Key Guardianship Alternatives Takeaways:

  • Common Risks as We Age: Financial loss and unwanted medical care.
  • Typical Cons of Guardianship: Total loss of autonomy with court-appointed guardians.
  • Important Benefits of POAs: More control of your wishes and asset protection.

Elder law and estate planning strategies that protect you as you age should not be synonymous with surrendering autonomy through guardianship. Individuals can confidently navigate this terrain by exploring alternatives to avoid guardianship as you age. If you would like to learn more about guardianships, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) (May 13, 2021) “Alternatives to Guardianship”

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The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 5

The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 4 is out now!

The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 4 is out now! It surprises some people to discover that the mortality rate in Texas and the USA and the world for that matter is 100%! None of us are getting out of here alive. How we leave this planet can sometimes be determined by how we want to.

While many people die suddenly, many others linger. And the prolonged dying process is where Hospice Austin come into play. We are privileged to have Keisha Jones, the Director of In-Patient Services at Hospice Austin share with us a “better way to die.”

While there are many for profit hospices, and an article in a recent edition of Scientific American highlighted that Hedge Funds are buying up hospices nationwide, Hospice Austin is the only non-profit one in this area. Keisha shares her unique insights into the dying process and gives hope, and we are very thankful for her allowing us to interview her.

To learn more about the incredibly valuable work that Hospice Austin does for the community, please visit their website: www.hospiceaustin.org

 

In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insights into the confusing world of estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand. It is Estate Planning Made Simple! The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 4 is out now! The episode can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. If you would prefer to watch the video version, please visit our YouTube page. Please click on the links to listen to or watch the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. We hope you enjoy it.

The Estate of The Union Season |Episode 4

 

Texas Trust Law focuses its practice exclusively in the area of wills, probate, estate planning, asset protection, and special needs planning. Brad Wiewel is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We provide estate planning services, asset protection planning, business planning, and retirement exit strategies.

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Essential steps for Gen Xers caring for Aging Parents

Essential steps for Gen Xers caring for Aging Parents

Raising children is expensive. Adding medical or living costs for aging parents is enough to strain even a healthy family budget. The additional expenses of caring for an aging parent or parents can take a turn if a parent passes away or is incapacitated without a will or estate plan to guide the family. An estate plan or other legal documents, such as an advance medical directive and powers of attorney, enable trusted representatives to decide and act according to a parent’s wishes. A proactive estate plan can help alleviate financial burdens and smooth aging parents’ path into retirement for both generations. Here are six essential steps for Gen Xers caring for their aging parents:

Based on Kiplinger’s article, “What Gen X Needs to Know About Their Aging Parents’ Finances,” this article outlines steps in estate planning for your parents’ financial future through retirement and their quality of life as they age.

Understand your parents’ financial landscape. Identify their assets, including retirement accounts, investments, real estate and bank accounts. List their debts, from home mortgages to credit card balances—a comprehensive view of their financial health aids in planning their future needs. Consider guidance from an estate planning attorney for a more customized approach.

Familiarize yourself with your parents’ income sources, such as Social Security, pensions and additional retirement income streams. Know their financial inflows, gauge their ability to cover expenses and plan for any shortfalls effectively.

Ask your parents if they have an estate plan, including wills, trusts and other legal documents outlining their wishes for beneficiaries and asset distribution. If they do, is it comprehensive enough for long-term care, medical decisions if they are incapacitated and Medicaid? Address these topics early and facilitate additional planning, so their wishes are honored.

Anticipate future healthcare expenses and discuss potential long-term care needs with your parents. Do they have health issues and medication costs to save money for? Develop strategies to cover these costs through insurance, savings, or income-producing investments. Planning can mitigate financial stress and provide access to quality care in retirement. Consult an attorney to discuss Medicaid planning and avoid delays in the application process.

Family members worry more about scammers and the misuse of an older adult’s money today than in previous generations. Protect your parents from financial exploitation. Consider living trusts or powers of attorney, authorizing trusted family members to act and decide in your parents’ best interests, if necessary.

Seek guidance from a financial adviser and an estate planning attorney for retirement planning and intergenerational wealth transfer strategies. Collaborate with them to develop comprehensive strategies that address your parents’ financial needs, while safeguarding your retirement savings.

Proactive Gen Xers caring for aging parents can use these essentials steps to alleviate financial burdens and provide peace of mind for both generations. They can support aging parents as they plan for the family’s financial needs and future. If you would like to learn more about caring for aging parents, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (June 5, 2023) “What Gen X Needs to Know About Their Aging Parents’ Finances.”

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Cognitive Decline is Overlooked in Estate Planning

Cognitive Decline is Overlooked in Estate Planning

Estate planning is a roadmap for transferring a person’s assets upon their death. It preserves their value and lays out the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries. One overlooked but essential aspect of estate planning is a strategy to manage and maintain an estate’s assets if the owner loses cognitive functioning and cannot make rational or mentally sound decisions. Planning for cognitive decline is often overlooked in estate planning.

A recent case highlighted by Alan Feigenbaum in J.D. Supra’s article “Confronting Cognitive Abilities in Well-Rounded Estate Planning” reminds us of the complexities and challenges that can arise when cognitive decline is not adequately addressed in estate planning.

The case involves an 80-year-old retired advertising executive, referred to as K.K., who suffered from severe delusions. Influenced by a fraudulent business associate, K.K.’s delusions led to misguided investments that resulted in a significant financial loss. Despite the clear signs of cognitive impairment, K.K. continued to engage in financial decisions that jeopardized his estate’s financial well-being.

K.K.’s son filed a petition to appoint him guardian of his father’s estate to prevent further loss. This situation underscores the need for an estate plan that includes managing the assets and protecting the estate’s value, if the individual is cognitively or mentally impaired.

  • Plan Early and Consider Cognitive Decline: Begin estate planning early and include provisions to carry out plan directives, if cognitive functioning is impaired.
  • Incorporate Safeguards: Estate plans should have safeguards, such as durable powers of attorney and trusts, which empower trusted individuals to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated.
  • Regular Reviews and Updates: Review and update your estate plan regularly to reflect changes in circumstances, including health status.
  • Professional Guidance is Key: Navigate the complexities of estate planning with an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney will structure your estate plan to address potential cognitive decline.

K.K.’s court case underscores why cognitive decline is overlooked in estate planning. A well-rounded estate plan includes a strategy to protect and manage assets when an individual lacks the cognitive capacity to make decisions. Proactive strategies prevent financial loss and reduce the emotional turmoil when caring for a cognitively impaired loved one. Estate planning gives you the peace of mind that your wishes will be honored, even in mental decline. If you would like to learn more about planning for cognitive decline, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: JD Supra, (March 2024), Confronting Cognitive Abilities in Well-Rounded Estate Planning

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Tips to protect Seniors from Guardianship Abuse

Tips to protect Seniors from Guardianship Abuse

Issues Inherent in the Guardianship System

Elder law attorneys see firsthand the complexities and potential pitfalls of guardianship arrangements. The recent investigation into guardianship practices in Florida, as reported by the Washington Post, underscores the urgent need for vigilance and reform in this area. While guardianships are designed to protect the vulnerable, they can sometimes lead to significant abuses, including forced isolation and financial exploitation. This article aims to shed light on the complexities of the guardianship system, expose issues related to guardian-inflicted elder abuse. It will also provide practical tips to protect seniors from guardianship abuse by planning before becoming incapacitated.

What Is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal process where a court appoints an individual (the guardian) to make decisions for someone deemed unable to make decisions for themselves (the ward). This arrangement is often necessary for seniors who can no longer manage their affairs due to health issues like dementia or stroke. It’s estimated that more than one million Americans are in a guardianship, a number that will only grow as the U.S. population ages and elderly people no longer have family living nearby to provide the care and protections they need.

A Cautionary Guardianship Case

Douglas Hulse, a former pilot from Florida, was hospitalized due to a stroke. After his recovery period ended and his condition did not improve, Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital could not discharge him without having an assigned caretaker. Therefore, the hospital petitioned the court to assign him a guardian due to the inability to locate his family. His loss of control over his assets and personal decisions to a court-appointed guardian is a stark reminder of guardianship risks. His guardian, responsible for 19 other wards, made questionable decisions like selling his home without seeking to locate his family.

What Role Do Hospitals have in Guardianship Appointments?

Hospitals often play a significant role in initiating guardianship proceedings. Cases like Hulse’s in which the hospital petitions for a court-appointed guardian are becoming more common nationwide, especially when elderly patients have no known family or friends to care for them. While this process is meant to ensure the patient’s well-being, it can inadvertently lead to the appointment of guardians who may not act in the best interest of the ward or, worse, will exploit the senior ward through financial abuse or other ways.

Why Is the Adult Guardianship System Allowing Abuse and Exploitation of Wards?

The discrepancies in the guardianship appointment and training process further complicate this issue. There is often a lack of standardized procedures for appointing and monitoring guardians, leading to inconsistent practices and an increased risk of abuse. This situation calls for a more rigorous and standardized approach to guardianship appointments at the state level, ensuring that only qualified and ethical individuals are entrusted with such significant responsibilities.

How Do Guardianships Put Seniors at Risk of Abuse?

The Hulse case highlights several risks associated with guardianship:

  1. Loss of Personal Freedom and Fundamental Rights: Once under guardianship, individuals may lose basic rights, such as voting, consenting to medical treatment, managing their finances, or deciding where to live.
  2. Financial Exploitation: Guardians have significant control over the ward’s assets, allowing them to access financial accounts directly and conduct financial transactions without oversight. This access can lead to mismanagement or outright theft.
  3. Lack of Oversight: Guardianships often lack sufficient legal or administrative oversight, allowing unscrupulous guardians to take advantage of their wards. Because a judge appoints guardians, they often do not face punishment or legal recourse for abusive behavior.

How to Protect Yourself From Court-Ordered Guardianship

  1. Advance Planning: The best defense against guardianship abuse is advance planning. This includes setting up durable powers of attorney for health care and finances, which allow you to designate someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
  2. Regular Monitoring: If guardianship is unavoidable, family members should stay involved and monitor the guardian’s actions. Regularly reviewing financial statements and staying in close contact with the ward can help detect any irregularities.
  3. Choosing the Right Guardian: If a guardian is necessary, choose someone trustworthy and capable. This could be a family member or a professional with a good reputation and credentials.
  4. Legal Oversight: Courts should have robust systems to monitor guardianships. This includes regular reporting by guardians and audits of their financial management.
  5. Awareness and Education: Seniors and their families should be educated about the risks of guardianship and the importance of advance planning. Community programs and legal clinics can provide valuable information and resources.
  6. Advocacy and Reform: Advocacy for better laws and policies around guardianship is crucial. This includes pushing for reforms that increase transparency, accountability and oversight in the guardianship process.

Key Takeaways:

  • Guardianship can lead to significant abuses, including loss of autonomy and financial exploitation.
  • Hospitals often initiate guardianship proceedings for incapacitated patients without family, which can lead to inappropriate guardian appointments.
  • Advance planning, such as establishing durable powers of attorney, helps prevent guardianship abuses.
  • There is a need for increased legal oversight and reform in the guardianship system to protect the rights and well-being of the elderly.

Utilize these tips to protect the seniors you love from guardianship abuse. Work with an experienced elder law or estate planning attorney to ensure that someone you love does not fall prey to abuse but has a legally documented estate plan to protect them and their financial well-being. If you would like to learn more about guardianship issues, please visit our previous posts. 

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Selling the Family Home when a Loved One needs Nursing Care

Selling the Family Home when a Loved One needs Nursing Care

When an aging relative decides the time is right to move into an assisted living or continuing care facility, families face many decisions. This is often a difficult but necessary step for older individuals with trouble living independently or planning for their future needs. Selling the family home when a loved one needs nursing care can be a challenge. A recent article from Herald—Standard, “How to handle selling a home when moving into an assisted living facility,” offers suggestions to help families navigate the process.

First, speak with an estate planning attorney to have a trusted, responsible family member be named Power of Attorney. Individuals moving into assisted living may not have any cognitive problems at the time of the move. However, selling a home for a family member who develops dementia can present complex challenges. Only a person with legal capacity may transfer their home to a new owner. Having a Power of Attorney allows a family member to step in and manage the transaction without needing to go to court and have a guardian named.

Talk about the situation and the sale with the aging family member. They will need time to process the idea of selling their home and moving. Homeowners make untold sacrifices and compromises to buy and maintain their homes, so the decision to sell a beloved home is almost always very difficult and brings out a range of emotions.

Throughout this process, an open and honest dialogue about what can be achieved by selling the home and improving their quality of life will be helpful.

Sorting through belongings is an extremely hard task. A lifetime of memories and a loss of their independence are all wrapped up in the contents of a home. It will be impossible to take the entire contents into a one or two-bedroom apartment. Take the time to sort through belongings with your family members and select certain items to give them a sense of home in a smaller space.

If possible, try to pass on some items to younger family members. Most importantly, handle this process with as much compassion as possible.

Keep all relevant people involved and current throughout the process. This is particularly important if the family members are scattered in different states. Adult children who live far away and can’t be active participants in this process shouldn’t be dismissed and left out. Open communication with other family members will minimize the chances of objections when the sale and move take place.

Finally, because this is perhaps the largest and last financial transaction, make sure the sale of their home is done with an eye to their estate plan. Selling the family home when a loved one needs nursing care may cause tax issues. There may be ways to minimize tax exposure for the individual and their estate plan. Confer with an estate planning attorney to avoid any missteps. If you would like to learn more about managing property in your estate plan, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Herald-Standard (Oct. 27, 2023) “How to handle selling a home when moving into an assisted living facility”

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The Difference Between Guardianship and Power of Attorney

The Difference Between Guardianship and Power of Attorney

Navigating the intricate landscape of elder law can be daunting, especially when faced with the decision between guardianship and power of attorney for elderly parents. This article sheds light on the difference between guardianship and power of attorney, providing clarity on which approach might be the best fit for your family’s unique situation.

What Exactly Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that empowers an individual, often referred to as the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact,” to act on behalf of another, known as the “principal”. This authority can span a myriad of areas, from handling financial matters to making pivotal medical decisions.

  • Deciphering the Power of Attorney Document: The power of attorney document delineates the extent of the agent’s authority. For instance, a medical power of attorney focuses on health care decisions, while a financial power of attorney pertains to managing financial assets, like bank accounts.
  • The Significance of Durable Power of Attorney: This variant of power of attorney remains valid even if the principal becomes incapacitated due to conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It’s imperative that this durable power of attorney must be prepared with precision, ensuring the agent’s ability to act remains unaffected by the principal’s mental state.

Guardianship: An Overview

Guardianship establishes a legal relationship where a guardian is court-appointed to make decisions for someone unable to do so themselves.

  • Guardianship Proceedings: Initiating guardianship requires one to file a petition in the probate court. If the court ascertains that the individual is no longer able to care for themselves or their assets, it may appoint a guardian.
  • Differentiating Guardian of a Person from Guardian of an Estate: While the former is tasked with personal and medical decisions, the latter oversees financial matters. The guardian’s responsibilities, whether it’s a duty to provide care or manage financial assets, hinge on the terms of the guardianship.

Power of Attorney or Guardianship: Which Path to Choose?

The choice between power of attorney and guardianship is contingent on the specific needs of the elderly individual.

  • Comparing Decision-Making Power: Both the agent (under power of attorney) and the guardian have a shared duty to provide for the best interest of the individual. However, a guardian typically possesses a more expansive level of decision-making power.
  • Flexibility and Autonomy: With a power of attorney, the principal gets to choose the person who will act on their behalf. In contrast, in a guardianship proceeding, the court has the final say, which might not always resonate with the individual’s preferences.

When Is Guardianship the Answer?

Guardianship becomes indispensable when an elderly parent is incapacitated and lacks a power of attorney.

  • The Process of Seeking Guardianship: If there’s a belief that an elderly parent is vulnerable, it becomes imperative to file a petition for guardianship. Consulting an elder law attorney can streamline the guardianship proceeding.
  • Guardianship vs Power of Attorney Post-Incapacitation: In the absence of a durable power of attorney, guardianship emerges as the sole recourse if an individual becomes incapacitated.

Can Power of Attorney and Guardianship Coexist?

Indeed, it’s possible to have both mechanisms in place, although their interplay can be intricate.

  • Roles and Boundaries: An adult child might be designated as the agent for financial matters under a power of attorney, while a professional guardian could be entrusted with medical decisions.
  • Harmonious Operation: Both the agent and guardian must act in the best interest of the individual, ensuring their comprehensive well-being.

Making the Right Choice for Your Family

Deciding between power of attorney and guardianship demands careful contemplation.

  • Engage with an Elder Law Attorney: Their expertise can offer tailored guidance, helping you traverse the complexities of elder law.
  • Factor in the Elderly Parent’s Desires: Their voice is paramount in the decision-making matrix, ensuring that their autonomy and dignity are preserved.

Key Takeaways:

  • Power of Attorney is a legal instrument allowing individuals to designate someone to act on their behalf.
  • Guardianship is a court-sanctioned role for those incapacitated and unable to make decisions autonomously.
  • The distinction between the two hinges on the individual’s circumstances and the extent of decision-making power required.
  • Both mechanisms can coexist, though their roles might differ.
  • Engaging with an elder law attorney is pivotal to making an informed decision tailored to your family’s needs.

Work closely with your estate planning attorney to ensure you understand the difference between power of attorney and guardianship. If you would like to learn more about guardianship, please visit our previous posts.  

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Consider using a Trust Be for Long-Term Care

Consider using a Trust Be for Long-Term Care

More than a few seniors who are retired or nearing retirement lose sleep worrying over being able to afford the expense of long-term care, including nursing home care, which can cost thousands monthly. The fallback option for many Americans is Medicaid; according to a recent article, “Long-Term-Care planning using trusts,” from the Journal of Accountancy., Medicaid is a joint federal-state program requiring spending down assets. One option is to consider using a trust for long-term care.

To be eligible for long-term care through Medicaid, a person’s “countable” assets must fall below an extremely low ceiling—in some states, no more than $2,000, with some provisions in some states protecting the “well” spouse. States vary in terms of which assets are counted, with many exempting a primary residence, for example.

For many people, planning for Medicaid for long-term care may consider the use of an irrevocable trust. The basic idea is this: by transferring assets to an irrevocable trust at least five years before applying for Medicaid for long-term care, the Medicaid agency will not count those assets in determining whether Medicaid’s asset ceiling is satisfied.

If the planning is done wrong, there is a risk of not qualifying, thereby defeating the objective of creating the irrevocable trust. In addition, any tax planning may be undone, causing liquidity and other problems.

Some people plan to qualify for Medicaid even though they have asset levels as high as $2 million or more. Much of this may be the family’s primary residence, especially in locations like New York City, with its elevated real estate market. Costs at nursing homes are equally high, with nursing homes costing private-pay patients upwards of $20,000 a month, or $250,000 per year.

Timing is a key part of planning for Medicaid. Many estate planning attorneys recommend clients consider planning in their mid-to-late 60s or early 70s to move assets into a Medicaid Asset Preservation Trust, also called a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust.

This is because of Medicaid’s five-year lookback period. Most states have a five-year look-back period for both nursing home and home health care. If any transfer of countable assets has been made within the preceding five years of applying for long-term-care Medicaid, there will be a penalty period when the person or their family must pay for the care. The penalty is typically measured by the length of time the transferred assets could have paid for care, based on the average costs of the state or the region.

While there is no way to know when a person will need long-term care, statistically speaking, a person in their mid-to-late 60s or early 70s can expect to be healthy enough to satisfy the five-year lookback.

Why not simply make gifts to children during this time to become eligible for Medicaid? For one reason, there’s no way to prevent a child from spending money given to them for safekeeping. A trust will protect assets from a child’s creditors, and if the child should undergo a divorce, the assets won’t end up in the ex-spouse’s bank accounts.

Using a trust for Medicaid planning could be combined with gifts made to children or assets placed in trust for children, depending on the individual’s financial and familial circumstances.

The creation of a Medicaid Asset Preservation Trust is critical. The estate planning attorney must seek to accomplish two things: one, to say to Medicaid that the settlor, or creator of the trust, no longer owns the assets. At the same time, the IRS must see that the settlor still owns these assets and, therefore, receives a basis step-up at death.

If you are considering a trust for long-term care, an experienced estate planning attorney will be needed to advise you and create a Medicaid Asset Preservation Trust to meet the Medicaid and IRS requirements. If you would like to learn more about long-term care planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Journal of Accountancy (Oc. 9, 2023) “Long-Term-Care planning using trusts”

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You Need Two Kinds of Power of Attorney Documents

You Need Two Kinds of Power of Attorney Documents

Wills and trusts are used to establish directions about what should happen to your property upon death and who you want to carry out those directions, explains an article from Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press, “Power of attorney documents come in two main varieties—do you have both?” However, the estate planning documents addressing what you want while you are still living but have become incapacitated are just as important. To some people, they are more important than wills and trusts. You need two kinds of Power of Attorney documents to have all of your bases covered.

A comprehensive estate plan should address both life and death, including incapacity. This is done through Power of Attorney documents. One is for health care, and the other is for financial and legal purposes.

A Power of Attorney document is used to name a decision maker, often called your “Agent” or “Attorney in Fact,” if you cannot make your own decisions while living. You can use the POA document to state the scope and limits the agent will have in making decisions for you. A custom-made POA allows you to get as specific as you wish—for instance, authorizing your agent to pay bills and maintain your home but not to sell it.

The financial POA document gives the chosen agent the legal authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. In contrast, a Health Care Power of Attorney document gives your agent the legal authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

By having both types of POA in place, a person you choose can make decisions on your behalf.

Suppose you become incapacitated and don’t have either Power of Attorney documents. In that case, someone (typically a spouse, adult child, or another family member) will need to apply through the court system to become a court-appointed “guardian” and “conservator” to obtain the authority the Power of Attorney documents would have given to them.

This can become a time-consuming, expensive and stressful process. The court might decide the person applying for these roles is not a good candidate, and instead of a family member, name a complete stranger to either of these roles.

The guardianship/conservator court process is far less private than simply having an experienced estate planning attorney prepare these documents. While the records of the legal proceedings and the actual courtroom hearings are often sealed in a guardianship/conservatorship court process, there is still a lot of personal information about your life, health and finances shared with multiple attorneys, the judge, a social worker and any other “interested parties” the court decides should be involved with the process.

For peace of mind, have an experienced estate planning attorney explain why you need two kinds of power of attorney documents. Preparing these documents when creating or updating your estate plan is a far better way to plan for incapacity. If you would like to learn more about powers of attorney, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press (Oct. 11, 2023) “Power of attorney documents come in two main varieties—do you have both?”

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Estate Planning can help address Nursing Homes Costs

Estate Planning can help address Nursing Homes Costs

Estate planning can help address nursing home costs. Figures from a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report published recently showed that the growth in the price of nursing homes and adult care has been especially volatile this year, reports Kiplinger’s  recent article entitled, “Nursing Home Costs Soared in July.”

The national average cost of nursing homes rarely declines. The cost declined for just five months in the last quarter century (the months between 1997 and 2022). Therefore, it’s surprising to see three months of decline in 2023 (April, May, and June). Nonetheless, the total 1.2% percent dip in those three months was more than offset by the 2.4% cost increase in July.

It’s hard to determine if the July price jump was an aberration or indicative of future price increases. This unusual volatility likely shows an industry struggling to regroup after the disruptions of the pandemic, which severely impacted nursing.

Nursing home and adult care is very expensive. Most people spend over $7,000 in out-of-pocket costs yearly.

This high cost is likely due to several factors, and the increased demand from a rapidly aging population, inflation and a shortage of qualified nurses top the list.

However, there is some good news: the U.S. Government plans to direct more funding to support the nursing workforce, though the effect of the program will take time to show up in the preparedness and availability of nurses.

For most active, middle-aged people, it’s hard to imagine that you might need significant nursing care one day. However, research shows that 70% of adults who survive to age 65 need at least some long-term support before they die, and 48% receive some paid care, according to a study by The Urban Institute.

The key is to pay attention to financial planning. A senior’s thoughtfulness will let her family move them to a high-quality nursing home and likely be covered financially for a long time.

Could your family say the same thing? Do you know the range of costs in your area?

For example, the typical annual cost of a nursing home ranges from $59,495 for a shared room in Louisiana to a yearly cost of $380,000 in parts of Alaska.

While Medicare may cover some expenses, partnering with a professional is wise to get your long-term care planning on the right track. Estate planning can help address nursing home costs. If you have children, you’ll be doing them an enormous favor. If you would like to learn more about elder care, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Aug. 16, 2023) “Nursing Home Costs Soared in July”

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Information in our blogs is very general in nature and should not be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Please feel free to contact Texas Trust Law to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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