Helping Elderly Loved Ones Make Plans
A recent survey found that fewer than 45% of American adults have any kind of estate planning documents in place, such as a will or a living trust. Admittedly, it’s not a topic many of us like to spend time thinking about.
At the same time, many older Americans have worked a lifetime to provide a comfortable standard of living during their retirement years and to help family members after they die. It would be a shame if they had not taken the necessary steps of protecting their assets and ensuring that they were distributed according to their wishes.
Some may think that an “estate plan” is for people with “palatial estates” and unlimited resources. However, an estate plan merely refers to a person’s possessions, including cash, vehicles, houses, real estate, stocks, life insurance, and personal belongings.
It’s especially important that our elderly loved ones have made plans for the future. While an estimated 80% of adults 72 years or older have made a will, far fewer have a medical power of attorney or a living will in place. These documents can provide clarity and comfort to a family whose loved one is entering life’s final stages.
What’s the difference between a living will and a medical power of attorney?
- A living will states a person’s preferences about various kinds of life-sustaining treatments. For example, one can specify whether they prefer or oppose medical interventions like cardiac resuscitation, insertion of feeding tubes or mechanical respiration.
- A medical power of attorney (POA) identifies a person who will act as their representative if they are unable to speak for themselves. Some prefer to have one person act as their health care representative and another to serve as their financial representative.
Experienced elder law attorneys can be especially helpful, as they can provide guidance and offer legal solutions that address your family’s specific needs, including:
- Drawing up legal documents (like living wills and POAs);
- Helping you understand the impact of estate taxes;
- Transferring assets either before or after death;
- Making plans so nursing home costs can be covered; and
- Discussing the legal steps required to set up a guardianship.
To make sure you and your family have prepared for the future and those plans are in compliance with local and state laws, it’s best to seek the help of an experienced attorney. There are many options to explore, as an attorney, like an elder law lawyer at a firm like Johnston Martineau PLLP, can explain.