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Life can be unpredictable, so being proactive and prepared for unexpected situations is essential. Some of us have a natural tendency to plan and stay organized regarding our family’s affairs, while for others, it comes out of necessity due to a difficult situation. Some hope that everything will always work itself out for the best without taking any action. Though this approach feels more comfortable in the short term, it’s inadvisable. Despite our best attempts at life planning, we all will eventually experience death or incapacitation. Rather than leaving our loved ones ill-prepared and scrambling to figure out what to do during such moments, a wise course of action is to confront these realities upfront and work through potential issues with forethought and planning. Let’s look at three areas: documents, aging in place or at a care facility, and long-term planning.
Documents to Have in Place
Getting essential documents in order is something that everyone should do to protect themselves, their family, and their finances. We recommend starting with these key documents:
A durable power of attorney gives someone the legal authority to manage your financial matters if you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to act. Similarly, a health care proxy allows you to designate an individual to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so, and a living will is a written expression of your wishes concerning life-sustaining measures, such as whether you wish for artificial means of keeping you alive. A living will is particularly useful to your health care proxy and loved ones. Having a last will and testament (commonly referred to as simply a “Will”) and trust (if needed) ensures that your wishes are followed after you have passed away. An experienced estate planning attorney will help you decide if a trust is appropriate, considering your unique circumstances and goals.
Preparation is Crucial
What happens without these documents in place? In the middle of a medical crisis, it places your health in jeopardy and your loved ones in the terrible position of trying to guess about the type of care you want. Without a valid power of attorney, no one can make any financial decisions or take actions on your behalf, leaving you and your loved ones who rely on you financially vulnerable. If you die without a Will, New York State statute dictates how your estate will be distributed, which may or may not be how you would like it or in the best interest of your loved ones. For example, without a will, assets may go to someone you never intended, such as an estranged spouse or child, a person under disability who may lose benefits due to inheritance, or a person with substance abuse problems.
A well-written plan for your estate distribution post-death, and financial and healthcare management during your life that clearly spells out your wishes is the best way to control the outcome and achieve your desired results.
Aging in place
Many people want to stay home for as long as possible when planning for the future and possible long-term care. But when considering how to remain at home, there are many questions to consider. Most importantly, is it safe? Is the house conducive to aging in place? Do you possess enough financial resources to bring in professionals and aides for help if necessary? Do you have legal documents like a power of attorney and health care proxy in place to enable someone else to make decisions concerning your care if required? Preparing these documents and checking that the environment is suited to age in place will provide confidence in the plan to remain home.
Relying on a spouse or adult child to provide care often comes at a cost to the caretaker. Caretakers frequently live under significant stress, which can lead them down a path of ill health. For this reason, when planning for long-term care, it is necessary to think of both the aging person AND their caretaker’s physical and emotional health and provide resources to ensure they stay healthy enough to remain in their vital role of providing support. Elder Bookkeeping programs are great for helping scions pay their bills and formulate budgets.
To assist with caretaker support, our law firm offers two specialized services for clients, particularly those who live alone. First, the Eldercare Bookkeeping program helps seniors pay their bills and formulate budgets. It also provides face-to-face consultations on how they can most effectively handle their cash flow. We do not offer advice regarding investing money, focusing instead on ensuring that all the bookkeeping and other essential tasks related to their budget are under control. Personalized Senior Support Services can relieve some of the stress associated with caretaking by providing companionship, social interaction, problem-solving, and mental stimulation for your loved one. Whether playing a game of cards, working on a puzzle, taking a walk, writing letters, shopping, or helping organize surroundings, these types of services will brighten your loved one’s day.
Moving into a Care Facility
When the time comes to move into a care facility, having freedom of choice is wonderful. If you have the means to pay for a year of care privately, many options are available. However, in some cases, you must rely on Medicaid. Your choice might be limited, and the care provided may be outside your chosen facility. While this can be difficult, rest assured that quality nursing home care is accessible regardless of financial background, and all options should provide adequate service.
When to Begin Estate Planning
The truth is that anyone over 18 needs some documents in place. Setting up a power of attorney and health care proxy are essential steps to prevent problems should someone become incapacitated. Having a will becomes crucial as we accumulate assets and build a family. With a valid will, you can ensure that your loved ones are taken care of financially in the future after you’re gone. If you have minor children, this is especially critical—not only do you want to ensure they receive adequate care and supervision after your passing, but also that their financial needs are met as best as possible.
As we age, long-term care planning for our later years becomes increasingly important. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more clients who need to address long-term care in their 50s or even earlier due to conditions like early-onset Alzheimer’s or dementia. Therefore, it is vital to plan financially as best as possible for the long run, such as having a durable power of attorney and health care proxy in place. Not only can this provide immediate assistance, but it will also help tremendously in the future. These two documents, plus financial savvy, can give people greater confidence in knowing that they are still taken care of, no matter what health struggles come their way.
Long-Term Care Planning
When a person requires assistance with long-term care, such as skilled nursing or homecare, they have several options to pay for these services. These include choosing to pay privately, using an insurance policy specifically for this purpose, or applying for Medicaid. Remember that if you are looking to go through Medicaid here, advanced planning is needed, and a considerable amount of time has to pass before applying – typically five years. It is also important to note that there are other long-term care planning strategies available to married couples that are not available for single persons. There are also options available if there is a caretaker child, or a disabled child that may be appropriate. If you are aging as expected, with no signs of early onset problems, these conversations should occur in the late 60s or early 70s.
Should you DIY these planning documents?
Using online forms for legal purposes may seem like a shortcut for preparing these documents. We do not recommend this. When it comes to following New York state law, online forms are often not appropriately tailored. Relying on DIY forms could save a few pennies in the short term but cause very costly problems in the long run. Getting help from an experienced elder law attorney is a much more fiscally responsible choice.
Counsel without Judgment
At our firm, you can count on us to provide counsel without judgment in all areas of estate planning and administration. We want our clients to feel comfortable and secure while developing their estate plans, so we promise to be skilled, direct, and honest with every individual we serve. We understand the gravity of each situation and strive to earn your trust so we can advise you in the best way possible. If you have any questions or concerns about creating an estate plan, don’t hesitate to give us a call and schedule a consultation – we are here to help!
Meier Law Firm is committed to playing an active role on the team of professionals that help you and your loved ones maintain the best quality of life. To learn more about their Long-term Care Planning Services, visit TheMeierLawFirm.com
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