It may be a new medical diagnosis, a dent in the bumper, or an unpaid bill, but as our parents age, often there are warning signs that indicate a threat to their health and well-being. A recent article, “Accessing needs of aging parents,” from The News-Enterprise explains the steps adult children can take to protect their parents.
Estate planning requires the ability to be realistic about current health and financial needs, while considering the inevitable changes to come. For adults with aging parents, having a well-thought out estate plan, regardless of the size of the estate, becomes more urgent as the time to use the documents draws closer. It is a lot easier to handle major changes when preparations have been made well ahead of time.
There are four key factors to consider when evaluating the risks facing your parents: medical needs, housing and care needs, finances and legal needs.
Start with medical, transportation, & housing needs.
Consider what may happen over the next five years. Is it likely their medical conditions may worsen? Do they have access to good medical care? Would their current home or apartment accommodate wheelchair or walker use? Can the bedroom, bathroom, and other necessities be accessed on one floor? If their home is not conducive to aging in place, will they consider moving to a senior community or care facility? Are their other transportation options if they are no longer able to drive? While no one can predict the future, it is helpful to make some calls, ask around, and consult with professionals so you have a plan in place when needed.
Next, examine health and care needs.
If personal care assistance is needed, would they prefer help from family or from a paid professional? Would they prefer in-home care, or to move to an assisted living or other care community? Do they have long-term care insurance or private funds to pay for care? How long can they pay for care before they would need to apply for Medicaid? If one spouse will need memory care or one spouse dies, will the surviving spouse have the resources needed to remain in home and receive the care they need? An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to evaluate their financial situation with regard to becoming eligible for Medicaid, if this will be needed. There is a five-year look-back period for Medicaid, so advance action is necessary to protect assets.
Do they have any estate planning documents in place?
Is there a Will, and when was it prepared? Anyone living in Texas should have a Texas will, naming an Independent Executor. A Will should be updated any time their is a significant change in the family including births, marriages, adoptions, major changes in finances, divorce, or death. The same principle applies to Trusts, as well as Advance Directives. You will want to be sure the Trustee, and Agents are willing and able to serve, and alternates have been named. Having an Agent under a Durable Financial Power of Attorney can help reduce the risk of financial exploitation. An experienced Elder Law Estate Planning Attorney can review any existing documents, and recommend changes and additional documents provide the needed protections.
Uncover the circumstances unique to their situation.
Estate planning becomes more complicated with blended families, or when any member of the family is living with addiction, substance abuse, or mental health concerns. Other complications may include business ownership, out-of-state property, or foreign investments.
The best solution is to have an experienced Elder Law Estate Planning attorney meet with the parents, review any existing documents and prepare an updated set of documents to achieve the parent’s goals, protect them in case of medical emergencies and allow parents and children to gain the peace of mind of knowing they are ready for the future. This includes a will, power of attorney, health care power of attorney, HIPAA release, living will and, depending upon the situation, may also include trusts.
Contact our office today to get started.
Reference: The Times-Enterprise (Nov. 5, 2022) “Accessing needs of aging parents”