Estate planning requires being realistic about current health and assets while considering the inevitable changes to come. Protecting your elderly parents requires an assessment of their current and potential needs. For adults with aging parents, having a well-thought-out estate plan, regardless of the size of the estate, becomes more urgent as the time to use the documents draws closer. A recent article, “Accessing needs of aging parents,” from The News-Enterprise, explains the steps adult children need to take to protect their parents.
There are four key factors to consider: medical needs, housing and care needs, finances, and legal needs. All require candid, non-emotional assessments.
The first step in protecting your elderly parents requires an assessment of where their needs today and potential needs tomorrow. Consider the next five years. Is it likely their medical condition may decline? How will their present home work if they are unable to manage steps or need to sleep and toilet on the same level? If their home is not conducive to aging in place, will they consider moving to a better situation—or can they afford to make any changes?
Next, in determining how to protect your elderly parents, you should assess their potential healthcare needs. If one spouse needs memory care or dies, will the surviving spouse have the resources necessary to remain at home and receive the care they need? Do they have long-term care insurance, or do they expect to apply for Medicaid? An experienced estate planning attorney can evaluate their financial situation about becoming eligible for Medicaid if needed. There is a five-year look-back period for Medicaid, so advance action is necessary to protect assets.
Is there a will, and when was it prepared? Ask any estate planning attorney how often seniors have told their children a will exists, only for the children to learn the will is forty years old, woefully out of date, and declared invalid by the probate court. Your parents may still have deceased individuals listed as agents for Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney. Funds left for heirs may no longer exist. Laws for power of attorney may not include required provisions due to changes to the law.
If appreciated real estate property has been deeded to loved ones to protect the property from nursing home costs, are the beneficiaries prepared to pay the resulting taxes? If deeded real estate property was intentionally left unrecorded, transferring property could become a legal quagmire.
The best solution is to have an experienced estate planning attorney meet with the parents. Book a call, and we can schedule a meeting. At this meeting, the attorney can review any existing documents and prepare an updated set of documents to achieve the parent’s goals. The attorney can also draft or update documents to protect them in case of medical emergencies. This meeting will allow parents and children to gain the peace of mind of knowing they are ready for the future. This includes a will, power of attorney, health care power of attorney, HIPAA release, living will, and, depending upon the situation, may also include trusts.
Reference: The Times-Enterprise (Nov. 5, 2022) “Accessing needs of aging parents.”
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