Helping Your Aging Parent Decide to Leave Their Home

One of the biggest challenges for parents and adult children is adjusting to the inevitable role reversals that come with age. As our parents get older, they may find it harder to do some of the things they once took for granted. They may also find it harder to admit that day-to-day tasks are becoming more challenging. As their adult children, it is then up to us to help them make difficult decisions. One is deciding when it is time to leave their home.

Some facts and figures to ponder. 

Before you talk to your parents about a permanent move, consider the following

  • Approximately 90 percent of the participants in a recent survey are planning on staying in their current homes for the next five to 10 years. Of these, a significant number, 85 percent, are convinced they can do so without making any major changes to their homes.
  •  The top two reasons for aging at home given by survey participants were proximity to friends and family and staying in a home they like.
  •  More than 60 percent of seniors between age 60 and 70 reported finding it “very easy” to live with little or no assistance. On the other hand only 43 percent of those over 70 do so. 

What to look out for as an adult child. 

As an adult child, you may feel the need to walk a very fine line. How do you know when it is time to talk to your parents about certain concerns, and when is it time to intervene? This may be especially difficult if you do not live near your parents and only see them occasionally. The following are clues that it could soon be time for your parents to leave their home: 

  •         Trouble getting around
  •         Noticeable decline in health, especially due to chronic illnesses
  •         Poor hygiene
  •         Disheveled appearance
  •         Poor nutrition
  •         Slower recuperation from illness or injury
  •         Failure to take medications as prescribed
  •         Difficulty with household chores and maintenance
  •         Ignoring mail
  •         Failing to pay bills on time
  •         Evidence of difficulty driving
  •         Confusion or becoming easily disoriented in familiar surroundings
  •         Difficulty caring for pets

We understand the challenges of finding a new place to live and being able to afford it as you age.

Figuring out where your parents may live after they move out of their house may also pose its own set of challenges. The decision is usually based on several factors, including their overall health and what they can afford. Options for seniors who still have significant independence include smaller homes or apartments and senior/retirement communities. Other options include assisted living and long-term care facilities, such as skilled nursing homes.

Starting to think about these issues well in advance can help alleviate some of the stress and heartache that you and your parents may face during this transition. We want you to know that we are here to support you now and in the long-term. Please feel free to call our law firm to schedule a meeting at any time.

Did You Know Legal Forms from an Office Store May Fail?

Do you need a legal form such as a Florida durable power of attorney, or a last will and testament? If so, finding one is simple. All you need to do is visit your local office supply store. If you have a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone with a reliable internet connection, you can purchase these forms on the office store’s website. You should be aware, however, that either approach carries definite risks. This is due to the likelihood the “document” will fail, leaving you or your family to cope with unintended consequences.

 

We frequently receive questions from our clients, friends, and advisors we work with as to why the simple option cannot work. Let us share some critical information that you need before making the choice to use forms instead of an estate planning and elder law attorney.

 

First, the legal forms found at office stores are usually generic versions of documents that attorneys use in practice areas ranging from business law to contract, real estate, family, and estate law. For the purposes of this article, we will concentrate on the latter. In addition to those we have already mentioned, common types of forms are: 

 

  • Living trust agreement 
  • Living will 
  • Power of attorney for healthcare 
  • Revocation of living trust 

 

Of course the cost will vary depending on what you need, but you can generally expect to spend less than fifty dollars.

 

This may lead you to a second question such as: are these forms valid? The short answer to this question is, “technically, yes.” This is because legal forms available at office supply stores can serve as frameworks that can be supplemented with your personal information. There is significant danger, however, with basic, “boilerplate” forms. As such, they do not allow for any degree of flexibility and do not take your needs into consideration. 

 

Take a Florida durable power of attorney form from an office supply store as a case in point.  Unlike the formal version used by an attorney, the store-bought variety does not allow you to include contingencies for unanticipated circumstances. Hypothetically, this could preclude you from naming someone else to act on your behalf if something happened to your original agent. Further, this document, in almost all circumstances, does not include the critical superpowers you need in Florida. Unfortunately, since it does not accommodate specific language, this type of power of attorney form could cause you to make costly mistakes. These include giving your agent too much authority, or failing to give him or her enough power to act on your behalf.

 

To put it plainly, taking shortcuts when it comes to your future and your legal rights is never a good idea. Why not let us help you create a plan that will serve you best in the short term and the long run? Do not wait to contact our office to plan forward for what you need both now and in the future. 

3 Reasons Why Updating Your Florida Long-Term Care Planning Should Be a New Year’s Resolution in 2020

A new year is an exciting time for all of us. No matter what your resolutions are, this is the time to set your ideas in motion for what you want to achieve not just this year, but this decade. As a Florida senior, however, do you have concerns about your health or a potential need for long-term care in the future?

We understand this concern. Many of our clients share with us that they did not know that they could plan forward for long-term care issues until it was too late. We are here to tell you that you can be proactive and start Florida long-term care planning now. You can work with both your elder law attorney and your loved ones to ensure that you are protected under all circumstances. 

Let us share with you three reasons why updating your Florida long-term care planning, or creating it for the first time, should be at the top of your to do list this year.

  1. Your life can change unexpectedly. None of us are guaranteed a future. We are also not guaranteed to be healthy in our future. Health care crises can occur overnight and, unfortunately, when we least expect them. Formally healthy aging parents, spouses, and friends, can suddenly find themselves facing significant health concerns. Knowing what you want to do and how you will handle a crisis is critical to ensuring that you are able to access the best care possible should this happen to you or to a loved one. Do not put off thinking about the unexpected and take the time you need to complete Florida long-term care planning.
  2. Medicare does not pay for most long-term care needs. For many Florida seniors and their loved ones, they are relying on Medicare to help pay for most healthcare costs. Medicare, however, is an acute payor system. This means that it is not set up to pay for long-term custodial care. In a crisis you may need to pay for care out of pocket or seek to become eligible for public benefits programs, such as Medicaid. Learning what you will need when it comes to Florida long-term care planning early, can help everyone involved.
  3. Estate planning is not enough. Many of us have estate planning. We believe, mistakenly, that this will be enough to protect us in the event of a long-term care issue. Unfortunately, it is not enough. While estate planning is critical, and you need it to ensure you and your loved ones are protected, it is equally important to plan with your elder law attorney to understand how you will be able to find good care and afford it in the event of a crisis.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. There is never a wrong time to plan forward for both Florida long-term care planning and estate planning. We encourage you not to wait to get the advice you need. You may contact us to schedule a meeting at any time with us now, or in the future.

When Was the Last Time You Revised Your Estate Plan?

When was the last time you thought about your estate plan? Was your newest grandchild born?  When your son finally completed his divorce? After the death of a parent? Life throws so much at us that it can be easy to lose track of things.  Even something as important as your estate plan.  

We know it takes a significant amount of time and effort to prepare your estate plan. Once the documents are complete, however, your job is not finished. It is critical for you to review your estate plan, at least annually, because as your life changes so do your needs. Further, laws can change over time that can impact the planning goals that you have for yourself and your loved ones.

Estate plan strategies may change depending on circumstances. 

Estate Planning - Photo of a Happy Mature Couple planning their estate.

You may be richer or you may be poorer. One asset in your portfolio may have increased significantly, but what happened to everything else?  If there are significant changes in value or in the circumstances surrounding your beneficiaries, you may decide you want to make changes to who inherits from you in the future. 

What happens to your estate planning, however, if you or a loved one get sick or faces significant long-term care challenges? Alzheimer’s Disease or stroke related dementia may not presently be concerns but any estate plan needs to be updated to be flexible enough to deal with these types of catastrophic events. In fact, there are special types of trust that can be used to diminish the impact of these issues and their impact on your loved ones.  For example, a special needs trust could be used in situations like these. In this example, as well as in this type of planning, the funding of the special needs trust gives the trustee the ability to pay for nursing and rehabilitative services that are not paid for by the federal or state government. 

Fortunately, not all situations are this drastic but there are so many options available to use in planning and so many variables at play that it is a necessity to revisit your estate plan on an annual basis.  We would love to answer your questions about your estate plan, discuss any changes you have, and help with any planning that might be needed in the New Year.

Do not wait to contact us to schedule an estate plan meeting with attorney Anne’ Desormier-Cartwright.

Elder Care & 3 Steps to Better Assessing Our Elder Loved Ones Driving Abilities

Keeping in mind that with elder care and driving that age is not the sole predictor of driver safety, but it has a lot to do with it.

Research shows that nearly 290,000 adults, ages 65 and older, were injured in auto accidents in 2016. This equated, on average, to about 20 seniors killed and 795 injured, every day. Last year, Older Americans amounted to 19 percent of all vehicle fatalities, as accident rates spike after age 70.

Let us share more about this dilemma right here. Many seniors rely on driving to meet their basic needs and are essentially stuck in their homes without the freedom it provides. Knowing this, and the associated risk with elder care and driving, what can we do?

Solutions were widely discussed during Older Driver Safety Awareness Week earlier this month, and while the event has passed one of the more important ideas offered was the need for adult family members to begin talking with senior loved ones about their driving before an accident occurs.

While this sounds simple, it is not an easy conversation to have with an aging one. We know just how challenging the “taking the keys” away can be.  We also know that not every situation requires that the Older American’s driving privileges are completely removed.

Elder Care & Assessing Our Aging Loved Ones Driving Abilities

Let us share three steps for you to consider for yourself, or for your aging loved ones

1. Collect Information. If you are concerned about an elder loved one’s driving, chances are others are also concerned. Ask them about warning signs and make note of them while exploring other potential red-flags.  According to AAA Senior Driving, two of the biggest predictors of senior accidents are traffic tickets and “near-miss” collisions. Do these apply? The goal should be to get a complete picture of driving risk.

2. Outside Assessment. An outside evaluation of a senior adult’s driving ability accomplishes several objectives: It identifies risks and provides recommendations, it takes the onus off concerned family members, and it can save a senior loved one’s life. Determine if there are companies, support groups, or a doctor the senior has connections with who could assist you with this task.

3. Have The Conversation. Armed with information and a plan, it may be time to talk with an elder parent or senior loved one. Above all, approach this person with compassion and respect.  Focus on the driving, not his or her age, and keep to the primary objective of ensuring continued health and safety.

Earning a senior loved one’s trust is critical to keeping him or her safe on the road. Although health is always the main concern, a number of legal considerations are also relevant when it comes to unsafe senior driving, and should be discussed.

Do not wait to contact our office to schedule a meeting to discuss this or any of your elder law concerns. We are here to support you and can provide you with the valuable guidance you need.

Estate Planning Lawyer: 4 Key Questions To Ask At Your First Estate Planning Meeting

elder care attorney

Have you scheduled your first meeting with your estate planning lawyer?

You may have questions about what to expect in this meeting. What is expected of you? What should you share about yourself, your family, your business, and your personal information? Even though you selected this attorney and may have received initial information, for many of us, the first meeting with an attorney can make many of us a little nervous.

The first step is to not be nervous. This relationship is about you and making sure that you and what you care about most, is always protected. The initial estate planning conference with your attorney is very important. This is when you explain to your attorney your estate planning goals, as well as, your assets and liabilities. This can also be a time when you also ask his or her advice on whether an estate plan can be established to meet your specific goals. 

Your first meeting is also when a confidential relationship is first established between the estate planning lawyer and the client. This relationship remains confidential, even if you do not hire this attorney. Let us share four key questions with you that you may ask your attorney in your first meeting.

The first question focuses on his or her experience in planning for an estate plan that meets your goals. Attorneys have experience in different types of planning. Many attorneys do not specialize in certain estate plans that are designed to meet the legal needs of a certain type of client. For instance, the majority of your assets may be invested in individual retirement accounts. In that event, your attorney needs to be experienced in drafting specialized IRA trusts that are designed to distribute these unique assets in a manner that does not give rise to tax issues at your death. 

The second question you may want to ask your attorney, or the staff when you are scheduling the appointment, is the cost of the initial conference you are requesting. Abraham Lincoln coined the phrase, “A lawyer’s time is his stock in trade.”

While the question of cost for the first meeting may seem offensive, it is not fair to the attorney to have him or her invest his legal time discussing your plans if you cannot pay for the first meeting. While the attorney may not be able to give you an exact amount for your whole estate plan, as you have not met yet, the cost of the consultation may be discussed upfront and the attorney will not be offended by your question.

A third question to ask your estate planning lawyer involves probate. You need to ask him or her what asset may need to be probated and what assets can pass to a surviving beneficiary without probate. The next extension of this question would be to logically ask how could probate be avoided. Your attorney will be able to provide solutions to you on how to both protect your estate during life or incapacity, and then at death by avoiding the probate process.

The fourth question to ask is when should your newly signed will or trust be reviewed by the attorney for updating. This can depend on a number of factors, such as your own family situation or what new laws have been passed that could improve or enhance the estate plan. 

Our goal is for you to have the most successful first meeting possible. Creating the right estate plan for you is critical to protecting you, your loved ones, and the legacy you wish to create. We encourage you not to put off planning as there is never a wrong time to create an estate plan. Do not hesitate to contact our office and schedule your first meeting with our Estate Planning Lawyer.

7 Considerations When Protecting Your Child’s or Grandchild’s Inheritance Through A Spendthrift Trust

Did you know a spendthrift trust is a trust that can be created for the benefit of a person who is often unable to control his or her spending? A spendthrift trust can give an independent trustee full authority to make decisions as to how the trust funds may be spent for the benefit of the beneficiary who is normally a child or a grandchild. Creditors of the beneficiary generally cannot reach the funds in the trust, and the funds are not actually under the control of the beneficiary. This is because the trust normally becomes irrevocable upon the death of the person creating the trust.

This is a critical planning tool to discuss with your estate planning attorney so that you can ensure it can operate the way you want it to. For example, the trust provisions may provide for a monthly stipend to pay for the child or grandchild’s monthly necessities. It could also be designed to pay for occasional distributions by the trustee to the spendthrift beneficiary’s college education, vocational training, or to buy the spendthrift beneficiary a home. This residence, however, will remain owned by the trustee and is merely available for the spendthrift beneficiary’s use if he or she needs a residence.

In choosing the best type of spendthrift trust, you, as the creator, may need to consider many different factors that could affect the trustee’s authorized distributions for the child or grandchild. As you discuss these factors with your attorney, consider these seven discussion points:  

  1. The child or grandchild’s chronic health and medical needs.
  2. The child or grandchild’s age 
  3. The intended duration of the trust
  4. The marital status of the child or grandchild’s parents or legal guardian
  5. The other financial resources available to the child or grandchild
  6. The assets that will fund the trust, income producing or growth oriented
  7. Any substance abuse issues experienced by the child or grandchild
  8. Whether the child may qualify for governmental benefits such as Medicaid for children

Trustees of irrevocable trusts typically have certain duties to inform and report to beneficiaries without being prompted to do so by a beneficiary.  The trustee’s duty to inform and account includes, but is not limited to, giving the beneficiary a copy of the trust instrument and an annual accounting of the trust assets’ performance.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Do not wait to schedule a meeting in our firm to discuss them. We look forward to planning with you to protect those you love.

Should Family Caregivers Have Their Dependent Parents Move In?

Family caregivers provide unpaid care for millions of dependent Americans, many of whom are elder adults. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, the average age of a dependent care recipient is 69.4 years old, and nearly half of all informal care recipients are over age 75. A key question for loving family members, this National Family Caregiver Month, is whether to have aging dependents move in with them. 

 

Safety concerns and cost efficiencies might make such moves seem appealing, but adult children should first determine if they are capable of meeting their elder parent’s needs. If they require only minimal care, such as assistance with meal preparation, dressing and transportation, then moving in might make sense. 

 

If an elder relative is ill or disabled, however, perhaps with dementia or a medical condition requiring nursing care, then well-meaning adult children may be unqualified to help. This may only invite problems to an already demanding situation. Make sure to ask an aging relative’s doctor about his or her needs, while keeping in mind that any existing concerns are likely to increase over time. 

 

Another consideration is the nature of your relationship. In other words, do you get along and is it emotionally feasible to live together under the same roof? You may want to care for an elder adult, you may feel obligated to do so, but it is more important to ensure the best quality of life for everyone involved, including members of your own family.

 

Practical considerations are also important. For example, can your home accommodate another person. To dive into this further, can your home accommodate a person with specific needs? Will the existing layout need adjustments? Renovations? Can your home support certain medical equipment?

 

Mounting expenses might require reimbursements or an allowance from the elder parent’s financial resources. Assuming other family members are in agreement, an estate plan could be crafted or updated to reflect the new caregiving dynamic. For instance, a power of attorney document could be created to allow for bill payments, groceries, and other items to be paid on the dependent parent’s behalf. 

 

Other financial and health care arrangements could also apply and you may want to discuss your situation with an elder law attorney before moving forward. We encourage you not to wait to get the answers you need to your questions. You may contact our law practice to schedule a meeting with attorney Anné Desormier-Cartwright to obtain the guidance you need for yourself and your loved ones.

Breast Cancer Resources for Senior Women and Their Loved Ones

Breast cancer impacts millions of women, and by extension millions of families and loved ones. If there is a singular message to this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is that these people are not alone. In fact, a major component of the annual October awareness campaign is to promote breast cancer support resources. 

The resources take many forms, but have the common thread of helping those suffering from the disease, and those who have survived it, often at no cost. Research tells us a staggering one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and two-thirds of women with invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed after age 55. This puts aging adult women, and some men, at elevated risk.

Research also shows that early detection and access to support resources can be an effective means for combating the disease. Participation in support groups, where afflicted individuals can receive help and survivors can share support, has been shown to mitigate related emotional stress. Large, reputable organizations providing support like this include the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation

A list of other leading organizations can be found here. Almost all of these groups provide access to online or in-person support communities. Such programs include: 

  • The National Breast Cancer Foundation’s “Beyond The Shock” initiative. This is an around-the-clock online support group where breast cancer survivors are available to answer questions from new patients and share their inspiring stories. 
  • The American Cancer Society’s “Reach To Recovery” program. This offers newly diagnosed patients one-on-one support with breast cancer survivor volunteers. 
  • The Cancer Support Community. This organization hosts free support resources in cities across the country, and provides online support groups hosted by licensed professionals for those who cannot attend.
  • GriefShare. This is a support program for people who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from breast cancer or needs help coping with related stresses, contacting any of the above mentioned organizations may be able to provide some relief. Moreover, do not wait to contact an estate planning attorney for assistance in crafting critical health care-related estate documents. This step can provide an added measure of peace during a difficult time. Remember, you are always welcome to reach out to our law firm for help preparing the documents you may need now or in the future.

Is It Time For You To Meet With An Estate Planning Attorney?

Did you know estate planning is the process whereby you both express who should care for you in the event of your disability and also to determine who will receive your property when you die? It is always advisable that you clarify your estate plan in writing through an enforceable last will and testament or a trust agreement. 

What you may not realize, however, is that if you have no written estate plan, the Florida legislature has an estate plan for you. This is through what is referred to as intestacy laws. These are rigid rules for distribution of your property by what the legislature thinks you would have wanted for your property distribution when you die. Although the intestacy laws may reflect what you want, it is best practice for you to develop an enforceable written plan for distributing your property according to your goals and objectives.

Most people have at one time or another established a simplified estate plan through a last will and testament. Few people, however, take into account that many of their assets will not be distributed according to their will but instead by bank accounts they jointly own with a spouse or a relative. Often, the distributions provided for by can go unfunded because the funds are distributed instead to who is designated as the owner on the jointly owned bank accounts.   

It is critical that a person meets with an estate planning attorney to insure that the property he or she worked a lifetime to earn can be distributed at death to the person intended to receive the asset. The estate planning attorney may first help the client by listing the assets and examining the ownership and beneficiaries of these stocks, bonds, and bank accounts. Also, the attorney will want to confirm the beneficiary not only on these accounts but also for IRAs, insurance policies, and annuities. 

Once the client’s assets and the beneficiaries are confirmed, the attorney may need for the client to sign letters to banks, stock companies, or IRA custodians to insure that specific assets are able to pass at death to the intended beneficiary. The attorney may need to also assist the client with the drafting and signing of an enforceable trust to protect the client’s family members who may be young or vulnerable to exploitation.

We know this is information can be hard to understand, and even harder to apply to y9our unique situation. We encourage you not to put off this important planning. Gather your questions and do not wait to contact our law practice to schedule a meeting with attorney Anne’ Desormier-Cartwright.