“Does mom want to live in a nursing home?”
“What does dad feel contributes to, or takes away from his idea of ‘quality of life’?”
“Do mom and dad have legal documentation in place that ensures someone can act financially on their behalf if they are unable to?”
These are just three of many questions local residents are encouraged to ask their parents and aging loved ones during Sandwich Generation Month, a month-long observance in July of each year that focuses on the legal and financial burdens facing adults who are caring for young kids and their older parents at the same time.
Without knowing the answers to such questions, families could be left battling over long-term care, struggling financially, and not truly honoring their parents’ wishes in the event of a future healthcare crisis.
Far too many families avoid talking about aging and long-term care until it’s too late. Especially from a legal standpoint, if you don’t know your parents’ wishes or the documentation they have in place (or don’t), you could be left with a huge mess on your hands if they become sick or disabled.
This month, it’s advisable for adult children to have 5 specific conversations with their parents as soon as the opportunity presents itself:
- Long-term care preferences – Do mom and dad want to live in a nursing home or would they prefer in-home care if the need presented itself? If they prefer a facility, what amenities and activities are important to them at this point in their life? If they want to live alone in their home, will that suit their personality or will loneliness and depression result? These are questions that if discussed in advance can make the transition into an assisted living facility or a home-health care program much easier on everyone when the time comes.
- Current Legal Documentation – It’s imperative that adult children find out what legal documentation their parents have in place before incapacity occurs. This includes making sure their parents have a financial durable power of attorney, health care directive, and HIPAA documents so someone can easily step in to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf. Otherwise, the family will be forced to petition the court for control over their parents’ affairs if they passed the point of legal capacity.
- Medical Preferences and Wishes – Adult children should find out what type and how much medical care their parents want as they age, or following a debilitating diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Do they have specific wishes about life support or other end-of-life medical treatments? Who do they want to make such decisions on their behalf? The answers to these questions will help your parents to feel secure knowing their wishes will be carried out during an otherwise emotionally-charged time.
- Current state of financial affairs – To ensure finances are properly managed, adult children should start asking tough questions about their parents’ financial affairs. This includes finding out the location of any safety deposit boxes, bank accounts, investment or brokerage accounts, long-term care insurance, outstanding debts, or other assets unknown to the family. Otherwise, necessary assets needed to cover long-term care or other expenses could go overlooked and unaccounted for. You should also ask your parents how they plan to pay for long-term care. Most expenses are not covered by Medicare or private insurance. Medicaid may be able to help, but you will likely need an attorney to help you create the right kind of trust or utilize other planning strategies in order to meet the income and asset thresholds and protect your assets from being “spent down” while qualifying for benefits.
- Important contacts and information – While their memory is still sharp, adult children should work with aging parents to compile a list of important contacts and information that will be useful to the family. This includes documenting key doctors, professional advisors (e.g. accountant, attorney, financial advisor), and important passwords for online accounts.
While these conversations are certainly not easy to have, families can make the transition into a parent’s senior years easier by planning ahead. Not to mention, mom or dad will appreciate your willingness to make sure their wishes are honored if and when incapacity, sickness or disability occurs.
For more information and help, please download our FREE guide, “Surviving The ‘Sandwiched’ Years: How To Protect Your Parent’s Assets, Honor Their Wishes & Provide Long-Term Care….Without Losing Your Money—Or Your Mind!” by clicking here.
Sure, the typical probate lawyer in Cobb County might like a surprise birthday party or an unexpected bit of good news, but when it comes to probate, the fewer surprises, the better. One of the main purposes of estate planning, after all, is to detail how an individual would like for things to proceed after his or her death.
Probate is the process an estate goes through in order for it to be divided up properly. The first goal of the Cobb County probate lawyer is to make sure that the estate is administered according to the wishes of the deceased. These wishes are usually made clear in a will or through a trust. Additionally, however, the probate process is also important in that it makes sure that the wishes outlined in the will meet legal standards.
While probate lawyers in Cobb County will encourage their clients to discuss the provisions of their will or trust with those affected by it, there are plenty of unfortunate circumstances that keep people from doing so. Oftentimes, this is where the probate lawyer will see the biggest surprises. For example, a spouse or adult child may be shocked to learn that they have inherited far less than they expected, or even been cut out of the will entirely.
There have even been cases where an entire family was surprised to discover that their loved one has chosen to leave some or all of the estate to a third party, such as a charitable cause. When this happens, the probate lawyer may help the family attempt to contest the will, but the ultimate decision on the distribution of assets will be up to the courts.
As you can imagine, when surprises like this come up, it’s uncomfortable for all involved. Different parties may choose to hire their own lawyers, and the situation can end up pitting formerly loving family members against one another. It’s not something that Cobb County probate lawyers look forward to.
While the probate lawyer is aware of how long the process can take, this often comes as a big surprise for clients. A good Georgia probate attorney will help to guide everything through probate as quickly and smoothly as possible, but it can still take from several months up to a couple of years, depending upon what other “surprises” make themselves known along the way.
If you have lost a loved one and don’t know where to start in handling their estate, we can help. Download my FREE Georgia probate guide, “Seven Steps To Handling Your Loved One’s Estate,” at this page. If you need our help to get started now, call us at 770.425.6060 or email me at email@example.com.
One of the most common issues that Marietta elder law attorneys deal with is how to help clients when it comes to both short-term and long-term care. Folks are living longer than they ever have before due to advances in both health care and technology. Certainly, this is what people have been hoping would happen for generations, but it does bring with it some new challenges. High on that list is the increased need for short-term care (to recover from an illness or injury, for example) and long-term care. What people so often want their East Cobb elder law attorneys to explain is how they can afford it and whether Medicare or Medicaid can help.
The answers to these questions are, of course, fairly complicated; but it’s worthwhile to have at least a little knowledge to get started. In the case of Medicare and Medicaid, you will find that both of them can help when it comes to paying for rehab services, but under different guidelines. This is something that Marietta elder lawyers spend a lot of time researching, and with laws constantly changing, it’s best to confer with someone knowledgeable about the current status of these programs.
If you are over 65, then Medicare might be a reasonable option for you. While similar to health insurance, Medicare is a federal program. Whether you live in Georgia or any other state, you can expect the same benefits and requirements. For example, to qualify, you need to transfer to a rehab facility (or nursing home) only after staying three days and three nights in the hospital; and the move needs to take place within 30 days of the hospital stay.
Basically, Medicare is there to help when an unexpected illness or injury arises so that you can get through it and recover. It’s not a plan for long-term care, rather it’s for those who need skilled care as they’re making their recovery. For that reason, Medicare will only pay for 100 days of care, and the last 80 days require a co-payment from the patient.
Your elder lawyer will tell you, however, that Medicaid is a state-run program. It is in place for those who have a demonstrated financial need. And that need must be pretty significant. In fact, you may have to prove that you have less than $2,000 in assets to qualify, and if you have more, you might have to get creative in how to reallocate it to qualify. Again, and elder law attorney in Marietta, Georgia, may be able to offer advice and suggestions on how to do this appropriately. The good news is that there are some exemptions to this $2,000 worth of assets rule, and you may be able to keep your house and your car while still qualifying.
Getting the most out of Medicaid can be difficult to figure out, so gaining clarification from an East Cobb elder law lawyer is definitely recommended. Social workers and staff at the hospital may also have suggestions and recommendations. This is one of those times when it pays to be prepared in advance, too, so that you know what your options will be and can set things up to work to your utmost advantage should you need to rely on Medicaid.
If you are a caregiver and you want to learn more about Medicare, Medicaid and long term care planning for your elderly loved one, please check out my free guide, “Hope For Caregivers: ABC’s of Long-Term Care and Legal Planning.” You can download it by clicking here.
Most people are familiar with a basic Last Will and Testament, but very few people in Marietta know what a Pour-Over Will is.
Essentially, a Pour-Over Will is used in conjunction with a Trust, usually a Revocable Living Trust, and it directs that any assets you own outside of the trust at the time of your death should be placed into your trust and distributed according to trust guidelines.
Here’s an example of how this works. Say that at the time of your death you owned a piece of property that you forgot to title in the name of the trust you created with your Marietta will and trust lawyer. Because of this oversight, the asset would fall “outside” of your trust and would not receive the protections that you had hoped for when you created your estate plan in the first place. However, if you had a “Pour-Over Will,” even though you made an error, the asset would still get directed back into your trust anyway.
In this regard, the pour-over will acts as a safety net to make sure that all of your solely-owned assets will be distributed according to the terms of the trust after you pass away.
Marietta wills and trusts lawyers tell their clients that unlike a Last Will and Testament, one of the greatest advantages of using a Pour-Over Will is that it does not have to state how the estate assets will be distributed. Instead, it merely has to state that the assets should go into the trust. This is an important aspect of estate planning for anyone who is concerned about privacy and does not want their personal affairs made public through the probate court.
However, just like a Last Will and Testament, the Pour-Over Will is subject to probate proceedings in general. The length and complexity of the proceedings depends on the amount of assets that were held outside of the Revocable Living Trust. The trust will have to continue to exist for however long the estate is in probate, so Trustees should understand that their fiduciary responsibilities may extend for longer than they thought if any property is held outside the trust and must go through probate.
If you have any questions about the difference between a Last Will and Testament and a Pour-Over Will, or if you’d like to review your existing estate plan to make sure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes after you pass away, please contact our Marietta Wills and Trusts law firm at 770-425-6060 to set up a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session. These sessions are valued at $600, but you can get yours at no charge by mentioning you read our blog.
Many of us are lucky enough to have our parents around long enough for them to know their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If you are one of the blessed, consider yourself lucky. However, there is one thing that you may eventually have to face – a parent who should not live at home alone anymore.
As an East Cobb elder law attorney, I highly recommend that you talk to your parents while they are still healthy and active. If you haven’t, and an unforeseen circumstance is pushing you to confront the situation, it’s going to be rough. There’s no need to sugar-coat this fact. Even if the elderly parent is perfectly amiable, there may still be a strong emotional reaction from the parent that comes along with losing one’s independence. Hopefully, the guidance we are providing will ease that path.
If you don’t expect your parents to react well to the suggestion of moving out of their home, solicit help from others. If your parent has had an injury, let their doctor know that it would be very helpful if he or she brought up the touchy topic up during a visit. In some families, parents won’t hear you – perhaps because they still see you as their child – but they will listen to someone else. Even if you are both saying the same thing!
Then, there is the “m” word – if you don’t know your parents’ financial situation, now is the time to learn. Even if your parents are able to maintain control over their financial affairs now, there is a high probability that you will need to help, or even be forced to take things over in the very near future. Approach the topic with the idea of preparedness. Tell them you’ve been learning a lot about estate planning and the next step it appears your family should take is to begin looking at mom and dad’s financial affairs so that if one becomes incapacitated, someone can step in and manage things until the parent regains their health. It is always helpful to paint this conversation in a supportive and positive light.
Finally, one of the very best ways you can help your parents get their affairs in order is to set a good example yourself! Why not go ahead and get your own will or trust taken care of? That way, your loved ones won’t be in financial chaos if something happens to you. The added bonus is that it gives you a platform for having “the talk” with your parents.
Nearly every day we get calls from adult children who are bringing in a parent that needs help getting their healthcare and financial documents in order. Believe me; it is much easier for everyone if we can work together before a medical crisis has occurred.
Set a good example! Give us a call at 770.425.6060 today and we’ll schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session at NO CHARGE (valued at $600) so that you can discuss your planning needs and concerns. All of our estate planning here in East Cobb is done on a flat-fee basis so there are no surprises.