With advances in medicine and healthier lifestyles many individuals today are living longer and longer. Many of us have aging parents who are lively and independent, however, one day it will be our responsibility to take care of them. Unfortunately the law does not provide children with automatic access and control of their parent’s accounts, funds and assets. For instance, when the day comes for you to sell your parent’s home you may find out that you simply do not have the legal authority to do so. In such circumstances your only choice may be to institute guardianship proceedings in court to gain full legal control and responsibility of your parents and their financial affairs. Guardianship can be an expensive and time consuming process which can be avoided in most circumstances with just the most basic of estate plans. As part of your parents’ estate planning, consider a simple durable power of attorney, which can be drafted to allow you to manage your parent’s finances and pay their bills without court intervention.
There is an old saying “Timing Is Everything” and it is also applicable to estate planning. Waiting too long to get it done can be problematic. Today your parents may be as smart and sharp as they were when they were twenty years old. But they may eventually begin to lose their cognitive ability. I have many clients who describe their parents as having good days and bad days and unfortunately it often happens that the good days quickly disappear. Once cognitive ability is severely diminished or lost your parents will no longer be able to do any estate planning and your legal options will be limited and more expensive. In addition, life is full of unexpected surprises both good and bad and we rarely get any warning or notice before bad things happen. Therefore it is important to have the legal tools necessary in place now to provide the care needed in the event of an emergency. Waiting until a medical emergency occurs before you see an estate planning attorney can be a costly mistake.
It is natural human nature to avoid contemplating our own mortality and this avoidance is the main reason many people fail to properly plan for their eventual long term care and death. In addition, elderly persons are often intimidated by the idea of going to see a lawyer about their estate plan. This is why many of my clients take the initiative to discuss these issues with their parents and some even accompany their elderly parents to my office for their initial consultation.
For more information about estate planning please contact attorney Matthew J. Monaghan.
Another state planning tool is a qualified income trust for medicaid benefits.