Caring for Elderly Loved Ones
Many Americans assume the responsibility of caring for aging parents and loved ones. Their role as caregiver includes far more than running errands and assisting with daily tasks, but also helping elderly parents organize their legal documents.
Fortunately for caregivers, the older population prioritizes estate plans, and more often than not have wills and living trusts established before needing additional care. According to a 2017 survey by Caring.com, 81% of seniors age 72 or older have estate plans in place.
If your loved one is among the 81%, be sure to inquire about their estate plans; more specifically, discuss the location of their will and any parties who should be made aware of its existence (executors, beneficiaries, attorneys, etc.). Should your loved one not have an estate plan in place, encourage them to draft an error-free will and help them organize their assets to avoid passing intestate.
Cognitive decline is a natural part of aging. It can, however, create barriers in care. Be proactive and help your loved one set up a Power of Attorney (POA). The POA is an advance directive that allows an individual to elect a decision maker to act on their behalf, often in the event of mental or physical impairment. Note that there are two types of POAs: medical and financial.
A Medical Power of Attorney gives the decision maker power to determine courses of action for the elder’s medical care, surgeries, and other treatments. A Financial Power of Attorney grants the decision maker control over the elder’s finances, giving the decision maker authority over bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, taxes, properties, and more.
In the event your loved one lacks a POA and is declared legally incompetent, you can still seek control over their medical and financial care by filing for guardianship. You must appear in front of a court to seek guardianship, unless designated as a guardian in the elder’s living will. Note: some states recognize differences in guardianship and conservatorship; review your local legislation to determine which you should seek and which decision-making capabilities accompany each designation.
Lastly, remain vigilant for signs of abuse and neglect of elders in long-term care facilities or adult service centers. Recent Elder Law cases exhibit an increase in abuse and fraud against seniors, including verbal, physical and financial mistreatment.
To learn more about Elder Law or Family Law, contact your attorney today.