May is National Elder Law Month, as designated by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. It is a way to acknowledge the profession that supports seniors and their families with all of their planning needs. And while that sounds great, many people still ask, “What do elder law attorneys do?” Part 1 of this series, “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys” will explore several ways elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones.
Elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones plan for the possibility of needing long term care.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 10 people age 65 or older has Alzheimer’s dementia.This number is predicted to double by 2050. Alzheimer’s is also the most expensive disease in the country, with no known cure. In 2017, the average lifetime cost of care for someone with dementia was $341,810.
A diagnosis of dementia can wreak emotional and financial havoc on a family. Elder law attorneys help take the financial stress off of families by discussing options to find and pay for appropriate care without losing the family home or a lifetime of savings.
The emotional and financial cost to family caregivers is also quite alarming. 83% of all caregiving comes from family members, friends, or unpaid caregivers. 30-40% of family caregivers suffer from depression. In 2011, a MetLife study estimated that women caregivers lose over $324,000 in lost wages and social security benefits over their lifetime. Male caregivers lose an estimated $283,000 in lost wages and social security benefits over their lifetime.
The family caregivers who are trying to work and provide care to a parent or loved one also need a legal plan. Elder law attorneys work closely with family members and caregivers to make sure they have proper legal documents in place should their health fail, or if they lose employment due to unpaid caregiving.
If it’s not in writing, it won’t be honored.
Elder law attorneys work closely with seniors to understand what should happen if they can no longer make financial decisions or health care decisions. For example, if mom develops dementia and can no longer pay the monthly bills, who will she want to have authority to access her bank account in order to get the bills paid? What type of care does she want if her dementia advances to the point that she can’t communicate her wishes? Does she want to live at home as long as possible? Does she want a private room if she’s in a facility? These are just a few questions that elder law attorneys discuss with clients, which then get put into legal documents so that mom’s wishes will be fulfilled.
My loved one is in the hospital and can’t come home – now what?
It can be very stressful for a spouse and children when a parent becomes ill and can no longer live at home safely. It can also be very expensive, putting the family’s home and savings at risk.
Elder law attorneys help families find and pay for the best long-term care possible. Unfortunately, 24 hour care at home or in a facility can cost families thousands of dollars a month. Therefore, it is often appropriate to look at other funding sources, like Medicaid or Veterans Benefits, to help offset the cost of care. Elder law attorneys help families explore options, and make the best decision for the loved one needing the care.
We will continue exploring how elder law attorneys help seniors and their families in Part 2 of “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys.” In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like more information about how we, your friendly neighborhood Marietta Elder Law attorneys, can help you or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 770-425-6060.
As a Marietta Elder Law Attorney, I can vouch that the number of adult children caring for their elderly parents is growing at a very fast pace. If you are a baby boomer and not already caring for an elderly parent, chances are high that you might be facing this situation soon. It isn’t always easy to know when, or how, to step in to ensure that your aging loved one receives the care that he or she needs. But, we’ve helped lots of Marietta area families through this stage of life and can offer tips for assisting your aging loved ones.
How to know when to step in
Age alone is not an indicator of when an elderly person needs you. Some people do quite well on their own into their nineties and beyond. Others might need help much earlier. The key here is to look for warning signs. The signs might include frequent falls or unexplained bruises, an empty fridge, or even unopened mail. Frequent visits are the best way to get a clear picture of your loved one’s physical and mental health.
Develop a plan
If you think the time has come to step in and provide care for your elderly loved one, you should start by developing a plan that includes all family members. Consider allowing your elderly loved one to also participate in creating the plan. It’s best to start with small, easy changes that still allow your loved one to maintain his or her independence.
Meet with an Elder Law Attorney
To provide the best care for your elderly loved one, you need to ensure that you have the necessary legal protections in place. A Marietta elder law attorney can help your loved one create documents that will allow you, or someone of their choosing, to make decisions for them in financial and medical matters.
If you suspect that your loved one needs help, I encourage you to take these steps right away. We get a lot of calls from people who waited too long and are facing unnecessary financial and legal crises as a result. Don’t limit your options. Call our Marietta elder law office at 770-425-6060 to schedule a consultation for the peace of mind of knowing that you are doing everything possible to help your loved one.
Picture this – you get an opportunity to spend some alone time with your spouse. What do you do to prepare for date night? You carefully select a babysitter. Then, you write detailed instructions; when to feed the baby, how often to change diapers, what snacks are allowed…and you leave a myriad of contact information including your cell phone numbers, the grandparent’s phone numbers, the neighbor’s phone number…you get the idea.
Putting this plan in place takes some time, but it provides you with a great sense of peace knowing that the babysitter you chose will have all that he or she needs to make sure your children are okay during your absence.
Now I’m going to ask you a question. Answer honestly. How much time have you spent planning for your children’s future in the event that you can no longer care for them?
If you are like most parents of young children, I already know the answer. It’s a sad fact that most parents of young children do not have an estate plan in place. If you think about it, you probably spend more time preparing to go out for a dinner and a movie than you do planning for the potential that you won’t be there to raise them.
I get it. The odds are in your favor. Chances are great that you will live a long, healthy life. But, accidents happen. Even young and healthy people can face the unexpected. You could be temporarily or permanently incapacitated – or worse. If something does happen to one or both parents, it can devastate a child’s world. Even though you can’t plan away the emotional trauma they will suffer, you can put a solid foundation under them that will ensure that they are cared for by the person you choose.
In a way, the process is similar to planning for a date night, but the first step is to select a guardian rather than a babysitter. This person will raise your child, so you should carefully consider who should fill this role. It’s often best to brainstorm with a Marietta will and trust attorney, as he or she can help you consider each person from all angles.
The next step is to make a plan that legally documents your wishes and preferences, including your preferences for your children’s upbringing, what type of education you envision, experiences you wish for them to have, at what age should they inherit money that you leave for them, etc. Again, an experienced Marietta will and trust attorney can help guide you through this process.
Just like having a detailed plan for date night, once your estate plan is in place, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the peace of mind that your children will have a secure future even if you aren’t there. Call our office at 770-425-6060 today and schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session to get started.
The largest coordinated sweep of identity fraud involving US seniors has recently been conducted. The US Department of Justice has reported that more than one million elderly people have collectively lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of this targeted financial abuse. The Department has criminally charged 200 out of 250 defendants identified in the sweep. These third party scam artists account for 27% of seniors who are financially exploited.
Con artists and scammers employ many different schemes to defraud seniors of their identity information and money. A large number of them are conducted over the telephone, for instance posing as an Internal Revenue Service agent claiming back taxes are owed, or frightening a grandparent to think that their grandchild has been arrested and needs bail money wired to them. Other schemes include the promise of a prize or lottery cash if they just send a large fee in order to collect their “winnings.”. Seniors become easy victims when targeted by these social engineering schemes and it is likely to get worse because of the proliferation of smart phones and other devices that get seniors to explore the online world.
USA Today reports that while phone scams target one senior at a time the online environment is opening doors to thousands or even millions of seniors falling prey to a single scam. Email and other online channels can reach a vast number of potential victims and more elderly people have an online presence than ever before.
Romance scams that use to be conducted in person can now be achieved in the online dating environment and even in social media. The attacker can befriend multiple seniors online and then ask for money to cover “travel expenses” to visit them. This is particularly successful as many seniors are dealing with isolation and loneliness.
The online shopping world is another vehicle employed by scam artists to defraud seniors of money. All that is needed is a picture of an object that seems to be owned by the scammer and you have the potential to sell that item over and over again to thousands of seniors. All the scam artist has to do is set up a mirror website that appears to be a legitimate online auction house such as E-bay to drain seniors of their money as well as obtain credit card and other identity information. These mirror sites masquerading as official websites are often in the email accounts of seniors and a mere click on a link can download malicious software to their device that is designed to steal critical identity information.
Of the 27% of seniors who do become financially exploited by a third party, 67% do not exhibit symptoms of cognitive decline. That is a huge number of mentally fit seniors being financially exploited. This is a pervasive problem in the elderly community. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2017” identity fraud is second only to debt collection with regard to consumer complaints. Identity fraud accounted for 14% of all consumer complaints last year. The Commission also reported that seniors who are financially exploited suffer higher median losses than other age groups.
Many seniors who have been targeted are embarrassed, ashamed, or scared as a result. Many never saw themselves as being at risk, they fear retribution from the perpetrator, and they fear that government agencies or family members will label them unfit to care for themselves.
Systems can be put in place to monitor senior accounts and make their money less easy to access by scammers. In addition, there are legal documents that can protect the accounts of seniors during their lifetime, and eliminate the chance of fraud or abuse. Please contact us, your Marietta Elder Law Attorney, for more information on how we can help you or your loved ones reduce the chance of financial fraud or abuse.
When a family has a child with special needs, the care of that child eventually falls on the shoulders of the entire family. The parents generally care for the child for as long as they are able. However, when the parents begin to age and are unable to care for their adult children with special needs, the siblings are often called upon to take over care of their special needs sibling. This brings extra responsibility and stress financially, emotionally, and can impact the schedule of the caregiving sibling. Siblings who are charged with the responsibility of a special needs adult must begin planning for how they are going to manage this situation before they must take over the responsibility.
1. Ease Your Way into Caregiving
The first tip for caring for an adult sibling with special needs is to ease your way into the role of caregiver. If the eventual care of a sibling with special needs is in the future, find tasks you can begin doing to care for them. Maybe begin by taking them for an appointment or for some other outing. Another great opportunity is to care for them during times when parents might be out of town or in order to just give parents a weekend break. This can be beneficial for all family members involved. It can give tired and aging parents a bit of rest while also giving the special needs sibling the opportunity to become more familiar with living in a different place. It gives the sibling caregiver a good chance to get to experience the needs of their sibling in a time frame that is more controlled.
2. Explore Legal Needs
Chances are the parents of the adult special needs child have put into place many resources to help care for their special needs child once they are unable to do so. But if a sibling is to be the future caregiver, they need to be involved in this planning and understand their role and legal rights and responsibilities. One legal issue that needs to be addressed is guardianship. The family needs to decide when the caregiving sibling should assume the role of guardian and take care of all legal paperwork necessary, so that this is in place when needed. An elder law attorney can be of assistance in helping to be sure all the proper paperwork is complete. If there is a special needs trust in place, the attorney can also help the family to make all the arrangements for the management of the trust. If a trust needs to be created, the attorney can also assist. Legal matters such as guardianship and the management of trusts can often take time, so it is important to have these conversations early and make decisions, in advance, as a family.
3. Have a Financial Plan
Often parents plan for the long-term care of adult children with special needs. However, there are families that have no plans in place. If a sibling knows that they will eventually be the primary caregiver for their sibling, they should begin becoming familiar with the benefits received by their siblings with special needs and benefits available to family members who serve as caregivers. It is very important that parents and future sibling caregivers sit down and discuss wills, trusts, and insurance, so that the caregiver also understands what financial support will be left for the care of the sibling with special needs. Outlining the cost of caring for the special needs sibling can also be a helpful step in planning to care for the sibling. Once a sibling caregiver understands the financial support and costs of taking care of the sibling with special needs, then they can begin planning ahead and creating a budget that works.
Planning ahead and knowing the legal and financial needs of caring for a sibling with special needs can help make a difficult transition run more smoothly. These changes are hard for all family members involved. Support is available, because even the most prepared will need help at one turn or another.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information from our Marietta special needs planning lawyer, please call us at 770-425-6060.