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.
Many people believe that it would be easier for their loved ones if they transferred ownership of their home before they need to. Bypassing probate in Cobb County, they believe, will be easiest for everyone. That could be true. However, there are several risks to consider that might harm you or your heirs.
Hazard #1 – You could create tax problems
If you transfer your principle residence you could be disqualified from part or all of the capital gains tax exclusion causing an unnecessary tax liability. This means that if you decide to sell after sharing ownership of your home with your children, they would have to pay capital gains taxes on the increased value of the home. This is really bad news if you’ve lived in your home for many years and the value of the property has significantly increased.
Hazard #2 – House value counts against you if you need Medicaid
If you transfer your house within 5 years of needing Medicaid assistance for a nursing home, you will probably be ineligible. Medicaid has a five year “look back” period where any monetary gifts or property transfers are considered which may take you above the income requirements.
Hazard #3 – Your loved one could get divorced
If you transfer an ownership interest of your home to your child, and then the child gets divorced, your ex-son/daughter-in-law might be entitled to part of the value.
Hazard #4 – Your child could file for bankruptcy
When you share ownership of a home with your child, you also share exposure to one another’s financial problems. If you are moving to an assisted living home and plan to use the equity in your home to pay the rent, you may have a bad surprise if the bankruptcy court demands some or all of the proceeds of the sale to pay your child’s creditors.
Hazard #5 – Something happens to your child
If something unexpected happens to your child and they become incapacitated or predecease you, you could run into real trouble. If, for example, your child becomes disabled and needs Medicaid coverage, he could be ineligible due to his share of the home.
Hazard #6 – Your child is a problem
After you transfer ownership of your home, you must all agree if you decide later to sell the home or even do renovations. If your child doesn’t agree with you, they can stop you. I know that it is hard to imagine your dear son or daughter in this light, but it happens more often than you can imagine.
The bottom line here is that you need to be very careful when considering transferring or sharing ownership of your home with your children. There are several other options but it is important that you work with a qualified estate planning and trust attorney in Marietta GA who knows how to utilize better (and safer) legal strategies to accomplish your goals.
In general, Americans are very uncomfortable talking about end-of-life issues. It can be hard for people to think about (and plan for) their own death, let alone the death of their loved ones. I get it.
Yet by not discussing these issues, you are leaving your future caregivers (most often your adult children) in an impossible position. Many people are taken completely off-guard when their elderly parents start to decline.
Because we don’t discuss these issues ahead of time, caregivers are often left unprepared for the life changes they are about to experience. Depending on the speed and amount of decline, a caregiver might have to dedicate a significant portion of their life to the growing needs of their parents.
Simple legal planning can help to avoid these issues. You can pave the way now, so that life is easier when incapacity, disability, or ultimately death occurs. Here are a few key ways to prepare:
- Have “the talk.” It doesn’t matter if you are the impending caregiver or the person who will need care, you should make time to sit down and talk. This should happen way before the elderly person starts experiencing memory loss, so the sooner the better! You’ll need to discuss the senior’s wants, needs, health issues, financial resources, and preferences for the amount of medical intervention you/they want at the end.
- Have legal documents prepared. Work with an estate planning attorney in Marietta to prepare important legal, financial, and healthcare documents – and keep them updated! Do this immediately if the senior is showing signs of increasing health issues. If you wait until the senior is showing signs of mental decline, they could be declared incompetent to make their own decisions and it will be too late for them to sign any new documents.
- Review financial information. Be sure you review the senior’s financial statements and understand their income and expenses. Knowing how to access this information will be critical to handling their affairs if they are unable.
- Research elder care options. Review the options and determine what living situations the elder person is comfortable with in advance. Determine their preferences for hospital, rehabilitation, nursing home, assisted living, and/or independent living communities as well as options for memory care, home care, and even hospice.
Having these discussions in advance are uncomfortable, but knowing this information will save more stress and heartache than you can imagine. For additional information on how to prepare for end-of-life transitions, contact our Marietta estate lawyer and elder law attorneys at 770.425.6060.
Marietta GA estate planning and elder law attorneys often find themselves advising adult children of the elderly on the intricacies of managing their parents’ finances. While it may seem straightforward at first, there are many details and difficulties that can get in the way.
There are so many things to coordinate, and often the parent is less than helpful in the process. Being somewhat prepared and having access to an estate lawyer are two of the ways you can help avoid some of the more common pitfalls, such as:
Memory Loss – Memory loss is prevalent among the elderly, and it’s actually one of the big reasons that adult children are called in to take over finances. Unfortunately, it also makes the job that much more difficult because the parent isn’t able to answer important questions such as “How much do you owe?” or “When is this bill due?”
Role Reversal – For the majority of the adult child’s life, the parent has been in charge. Taking over and being firm with the parent can be more than a little uncomfortable. On top of that, it can be frustrating and cause resentment to see the person who taught you so much, no longer following their own advice.
Lack of Information – Your parent may have chosen to be forthcoming about finances with a lawyer, but that doesn’t mean that they want to let you in on all the financial details of their life. Previous generations found it improper to discuss money, resulting in an air of secrecy that can be difficult to break through.
So, how should you approach with these obstacles?
As with so many other aspects of life, the best way to deal with problems is to avoid them altogether. The earlier you and your parent meet with an attorney that you trust, the more likely you are to get the information you need.
As an added bonus, your parent will have the ability to make his or her wishes known in order to offer guidance on how to handle their affairs if and when all of the responsibility is passed on to you. If you wait too long, your parent may no longer have legal capacity to sign documents and make their wishes known. Then your only remedy is to seek a guardianship or conservatorship over them through the probate court. Less pleasant. More costly.
No matter where your parent is, the subject needs to be broached. Again, earlier is better, as they are more likely to understand the importance of what is happening. You may choose to start the conversation by relating it to your own estate planning or by bringing up a situation you heard about recently, such as the death of a celebrity.
A good estate planning lawyer and elder law attorney in Marietta, Georgia can offer suggestions on how to bring up the subject, as well as how to help steer the conversation in the right direction.
If you need our help, please give us a call at 770-425-6060 or email me at steve @ georgiaestateplan . com.
Elder lawyers in Atlanta work not just with our older clients, but also with their caregivers. In many cases, this means adult children who have or will be given power of attorney, not to mention those who just step up to help when something is needed. There are some legal issues which seem to arise caused by people who see the elderly as targets or victims, and often it is the caregiver who is left to pick up the pieces. A good Atlanta elder lawyer may be able to help you prepare for, and hopefully avoid, these pitfalls.
Unfortunately, caregivers may find themselves in the uncomfortable position of confronting a sibling who is taking advantage of the elderly parent. It seems the least responsible child can sometimes find ways to “freeload” off the parent: requesting money, gifts, and special favors which the parent cannot necessarily afford.
While it’s no fun, it may be necessary to step in and put a stop to this behavior. This is much easier if the caregiver has a financial power of attorney in place. Even then, it can be difficult to convince the parent that he or she needs to stop funding the sibling’s bad behavior.
Another concern in this area is a sibling or siblings can falsely accuse the caregiver of misconduct. It could be because the sibling simply doesn’t understand the day-to-day responsibilities of taking care of the parents, or they may be jealous of the caregiver’s relationship with the parent. Greed can also come into play, with the sibling wanting as much money as possible to be left in the parent’s estate for him or her to inherit.
While unscrupulous siblings are certainly disheartening, the prevalence of strangers willing to take advantage of elderly people is absolutely infuriating. From those who want to sell bogus or unnecessary insurance policies to those who will flat-out rob a person of their identity, caregivers need to be vigilant to keep their vulnerable loved ones protected. Your Atlanta elder lawyer can keep you apprised of common scams which are going around the area and will offer useful advice for how to keep these con artists out of your family’s accounts.
A different group of people who are willing to take advantage of elderly folks are those who will insinuate themselves into the parent’s life as a boyfriend or girlfriend. In some cases, these individuals may be considerably younger—what are commonly referred to as “gold diggers.” These people flatter the elderly person, providing him or her with attention and what appears to be love. Instead, the “lover” is really interested in bleeding the elderly person’s bank account. He or she may even be angling to be named in the will.
Working with an Atlanta elder lawyer may afford some options for protection against someone who is obviously using your parent for financial gain. To learn what documents need to be in place to ensure your loved one’s finances stay protected and managed by someone the senior trusts, simply give our Atlanta area law firm a call at 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session.
As our parents get older and begin to lose their independence, many will turn to their adult children to help them navigate the complicated and costly world of long-term care.
Yet for adult children already caring for young kids of their own, this new role of “caregiver” can be a difficult one to assume. It’s no wonder this group of people is known as the “Sandwich Generation” as they are literally ‘sandwiched’ between the pressures of raising a family, holding down a job and managing mom or dad’s growing medical and financial needs.
As tempting as it is for Sandwich Generation Kids to bury their heads in the sand and deal with long-term care issues as they arise, failing to plan far enough ahead can cause your family to miss out on important benefits, long-term care opportunities and the ability to stay in control during mom or dad’s final years.
Here are 5 planning steps to help ensure your parents are afforded the most protection, flexibility and financial security during their golden years:
1. Find out if your parents have an estate plan and whether it’s been updated in the past 5 years- The will, trust, powers of attorney and health care directives your parents created years ago may not reflect their current wishes and long-term care needs now. Find out what they have in place and have it reviewed to ensure their documents have stayed up to date as their life and the law has changed trough the years.
2. Determine How You’ll Pay For Long-Term Care- Nursing home and assisted living facilities can cost up to $8,000 a month and Medicare will not pick up the tab. In-home care can be equally burdensome for the average family. Medicaid may pay, provided you are hovering around poverty level. The only other option is pay out of pocket—unless, of course, you plan ahead. By acting in advance and not waiting until your hands are tied in a crisis, tools such as long-term care insurance, trusts and annuities may be available to help your parents pay for their care without losing everything they’ve worked so hard for.
3. Get The Legal Authority Now To Manage Their Affairs and Maintain Control- If your parents do not have a powers of attorney or health care directives that allow you to communicate with doctors, access medical records and manage their financial affairs, it’s a good idea to create them now while mom or dad is still in good health. Otherwise, if a sudden medical crisis strikes or your parents no longer have mental capacity to sign legal documents down the road, you’ll be forced to petition a court for control (read: major time and money lost).
4. Document Their End-of-Life Wishes- Thousands of families each year are torn apart trying to decide what their loved one “would have wanted” in serious medical situations. Avoid the stress and conflict by asking your parents their wishes about things such as life support, feeding tubes, organ donation, etc. and legally document their choices to ensure everyone is on the same page.
5. Get Organized To Avoid Last Minute Scrambling- Gather your parent’s important information now to avoid any confusion and delays in the event of a medical emergency. Some important documents to collect would include their insurance information, front and back of all ID cards including drivers license, prescription cards and military ID card, prior medical history, names and numbers of doctors, copies of their living will, health care directives and a list of current medication and doses.
By being proactive and planning for these issues in advance, you can help make sure your parents always receive the care they need without worry or financial struggle. You’ll further avoid many costly legal headaches that adult children face when they are not prepared for their parent’s incapacity or ongoing care needs. It’s never too early to get started, so talk to an estate and elder attorney to determine the best ways to protect your parents, their assets…and your own sanity during the golden years.
To receive our FREE e-book, “Surviving the ‘Sandwiched’ Years: How to Protect Your Parent’s Assets, Honor Their Wishes & Provide Long-Term Care . . . Without Losing Money – Or Your Mind!”, please visit: GeorgiaSandwichGeneration.com