“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.
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.
Funerals can be very expensive here in Marietta, Georgia. Many families pay up to $10,000 (and oftentimes more) for their loved one’s funeral. Hoping to relieve family members from the stress of this financial burden, the idea of paying for funeral expenses in advance using a prepaid funeral contract is growing in popularity. As with any financial decision, you should carefully consider the pros and cons of this investment.
Some of the benefits of prepaid funeral contracts are:
- Your family does not have to deal with the emotional burden of planning your funeral.
- Your family has financial help, and sometimes full payment of your funeral costs.
- Many times you can lock-in the cost of your funeral at today’s price rather than a higher price in the future when the funeral is held.
- You can often pay in installments.
Some of potential risks of prepaid funeral contracts include:
- The funeral home could go out of business.
- You may not be able to get a refund if you change your mind.
- You may not be earning interest on the money you invest.
- You could move or die away from home and your contract may not be transferable.
Before you sign on the bottom line, be sure to talk to a qualified will and estate attorney here in Marietta GA. There may be safer ways to set aside or invest money that will accomplish your goal of taking care of your final arrangements and decreasing the stress on your family. The bottom line is that it is critical to gather as much information as possible before tying up your money with a local funeral home.
If you’d like to talk to our Marietta will lawyers about taking care of your family so they don’t suffer financially at the time of your death, give us a call at 770-425-6060.
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.