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.
As a Marietta estate planning attorney, I’m often asked, “what is exactly is a health care directive or living will?
Basically, an Advance Healthcare Directive in Georgia, sometimes commonly known as a Living Will, is a legal document that permits someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. This type of document is commonly associated with the decision of maintaining or removing life support for a critically ill loved one, but Health Care Directives and Living Wills cover far more than that.
Specifically, a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, or “Living Will,” allows someone to:
– Decide if you want your life to continue on life support or if you want to have them withhold treatment. (a/k/a “pulling the plug”)
– Pick a person to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
– Make decisions about pain relief options.
– Decide if you want your organs to be donated.
– To make any other decisions about your health care and treatment.
As you can see, a Health Care Directive or a Living Will is essential for someone looking to have their wishes carried out in the event they die or become incapacitated.
The person you select to make the decisions for you is called your Healthcare agent. The agent will be acting on your behalf so their role is very important. When you are selecting your agent, you should consider a few things:
-He or she must be over the age of 18.
-He or she must be reliable and readily available in case something happens to you.
-He or she must be emotionally able to make end of life decisions for you.
-You should consider adding two to three alternative agents in the event that the primary agent is unable or unwilling to make the critical decisions.
-If you appoint your spouse as your agent, and your marriage is dissolved or annulled, your agent’s authority is automatically revoked, unless you specify otherwise.
-If you are pregnant, your health care directive will not be honored.
While a health care directive can give someone the right to make all healthcare decisions for you, it is also possible to limit authority by clearly defining what their scope of power includes. For example, you may decide that your healthcare agent has the authority to decide what type of pain relief you are given, but limit their ability to decide whether to “pull the plug.” It is important to discuss this with an experienced Georgia estate planning attorney to make sure that you are very clear and specific in defining this scope.
Once a Georgia Advance Health Care Directive is signed, dated, and notarized or witnessed by two qualified persons, the Health Care Directive is valid forever, unless and until the individual revokes it. If the primary Agent refuses to follow the instructions dictated, the alternative Agents will be called upon to act on behalf of you, which is why it is important to name alternative Agents.
One final key point to consider when choosing your agent is that the person should actually want to have this responsibility. There are people who do not feel comfortable making such important decisions – even for their own spouse. Therefore, it is critical to have a conversation with whomever you are considering to ensure that they can and will able to make the decisions that you want them to make.
Setting up an Advance Directive for Health Care that truly protects your wishes in the event of your incapacity starts by meeting with a Marietta estate planning lawyer. Here at Georgia Estate Plan : Worrall Law LLC, we’ve made that process easier than ever by offering free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Sessions (normally $750) each month to readers of our blog. So call 770-425-6060 today to secure your spot.
When making an estate plan and Last Will and Testament, many people have a difficult time deciding who should be the Executor of their estate. Oftentimes they will consider naming Co-Executors – two or more people who serve as executor of the estate. Each Co-Executor named in your Last Will and Testament will have authority over your estate, and therefore must collaborate and work together to ensure your estate is settled in accordance with your wishes. But is this the right choice for you? Below are some pros and cons to naming Co-Executors in your Will.
Pros for Naming Co-Executors of an Estate
One of the reasons Co-Executors are named in an estate is if there are multiple types of assets that need to be handled. The best example of this would be if you owned digital assets along with tangible assets, yet the Executor you want to name for your estate would not be correctly suited to handle digital assets. In this case, you may want to name a Co-Executor specifically to look after your estate’s digital assets. The same could be said for real estate or automotive properties. Marietta Will and Trust lawyers often bring this scenario up with their clients and encourage them to carefully consider their options when naming Co-Executors to settle their estate.
Cons for Naming Co-Executors of an Estate
Most Marietta Will and Trust lawyers advise their clients to think very carefully about the dynamics that exist between the people they would name as Co-Executors. Many times the stresses of being named Co-Executor can lead to fighting, and in some cases litigation, if the Co-Executors do not see eye-to-eye. In addition, if it’s possible that the Co-Executors may not work well together or will have difficulty carrying out their duties because they live in different areas, you may want to consider naming just one Executor. Proper planning and communication with your Executor / Co-Executors may solve some of these problems, but once again it is suggested that those considering naming Co-Executors weigh the potential benefits against the probable risks.
It should also be noted that in some cases, even if Co-Executors are named in a Will, one or more of the Co-Executors will resign from their position in an attempt to make the process a bit easier by reducing the amount of people involved in authoritative roles. This is something that Marietta Will and Trust lawyers discuss with their clients during the estate planning process, so their clients are aware of the different possibilities that may happen once they’ve passed.
If you have any questions about naming Co-Executors in your Last Will and Testament, or if you want your estate plan reviewed to make sure it is in accordance with your wishes, please contact us at 770.425.6060 to set up a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session.
Many grandparents wish to leave a legacy behind for their grandchildren; however, they may run into some issues if those children are underage. A Cobb County Wills and Trust lawyer can help you determine what the best options are for leaving assets to underage beneficiaries, whether those assets are held in a Will or Trust, financial accounts, or as part of a life insurance benefit.
Underage Beneficiaries in a Will or Trust
Cobb County Will and Trust lawyers will always ask their clients if any of their beneficiaries are underage, or even if they would like to keep younger beneficiaries from accessing their full inheritance until they’ve reached a certain age, which is often 25. If the children are underage, an adult property guardian must be named since minors are not allowed to own property. If a significant amount of property is left to the minor, a trust should be set up to manage the property until the child comes of age. In fact, trusts can be used to ensure the minor only receives their full inheritance once they reach a certain age or milestone, such as graduating from college, while at the same time providing assets to make sure the child can achieve that milestone. A Marietta Wills and Trusts attorney can speak with you about leaving an inheritance to an underage child and will help you choose the best option for administering the distributions.
Underage Beneficiaries of Financial Accounts
Many people choose to make beneficiary designations directly on their financial accounts, such as savings accounts, annuities, and retirement plans. Cobb County Wills and Trusts attorneys urge their clients to carefully examine the details surrounding these beneficiary designations, as minor beneficiaries often cannot directly inherit assets after your passing. It is important to consult with a Cobb County Will and Trust lawyer to determine the best way for your underage beneficiaries to receive the inheritance you leave for them at the time when they can make informed financial decisions on their own. Directing the assets to a Will or trust is often the best bet in these situations, but consulting with an attorney will give you a much better idea of how this should be done.
Underage Beneficiaries on Life Insurance
Many parents and grandparents name their children or grandchildren as beneficiaries on their life insurance policies. As with the cases above though, an adult guardian or a trust must be named in order to hold the life insurance proceeds until the minors come of age. It is generally not advised to name minors as beneficiaries to life insurance policies, as courts will often appoint an adult to look after the proceeds until the child comes of age – and that adult may not be someone you would have wanted appointed to such a role. Speaking with a Cobb County Will and Trust lawyer may help you determine the best way to handle your life insurance beneficiary designations.
If you have any questions about the best ways to leave an inheritance to underage beneficiaries, please contact us at 770-425-6060 or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a complimentary, no obligation Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session.
Tips from a Marietta Elder Law Attorney for Selecting an In-Home Care Provider
There may come a time when your parent is no longer safe living at home due to physical or emotional/social concerns. Instead of moving Mom or Dad to an assisted living or nursing home, in-home care can provide a solution that makes everyone happy— your parent can stay at home in familiar surroundings and you can have peace of mind that someone is there looking after them.
Here are some tips will help you select an in-home care provider.
Determine the level of care needed. There are several options available, depending on the assistance your parent needs. Companions can provide social interaction and help with housekeeping, errands, meal preparation and medication supervision. Personal care aides provide hands-on assistance with personal hygiene, dressing and moving to different rooms. Licensed or registered nurses can provide skilled medical care. In-home care is available to even those with advanced needs.
Determine the cost and how to pay for it. According to a 2015 Genworth survey, the national median cost for a home health aide working 44 hours a week is $45,760. (Click here for costs in your state.) Actual costs will depend on the level of care and number of hours needed.
Long-term care insurance is one option to pay for in-home care, but many people have waited until the costs are prohibitive and/or they are uninsurable. (You may want to look into one of these policies for yourself now, as health care costs will only continue to increase in the future.) You can pay privately, using Social Security or pension benefits, savings or equity in the home. Medicare pays for skilled nursing care, but only for a short term. Medicaid programs are available for those with limited assets. Aid & Attendance benefits from the Veterans Administration are also available for wartime veterans and their spouses who qualify. A Marietta Elder Law Attorney can evaluate your parents’ situation and advise them about whether and how soon they could qualify for Medicaid to pay for nursing home care if they need it. Call us at 770-425-6060 for a no-cost evaluation.
Decide if you want to use an agency or hire an individual. Agencies provide you with some protection. They typically run background checks and drug tests on their employees, and if there is a problem, they are usually quick to correct it. They also handle taxes and payroll, and carry liability and worker’s compensation insurance. If you prefer to hire an individual, make sure you have excellent referrals. Also find out if you are liable for payroll taxes and worker’s compensation.
Check them out. If you are evaluating agencies, check their online reviews. Whether interviewing an agency or individual, ask about licenses, training (especially if dementia is an issue), and past experiences (good and bad). Call references and conduct personal interviews.
Be prepared to make adjustments. The type of care needed is likely to change over time. You may also need to make a change due to conflicting personalities.