Estate Planning 101: Protecting Wallets & Wishes

Does the thought of your loved one running out of money keep you up at night? Are you wondering how you’re going to pay for their long-term care? Is it possible your loved one’s financial, legal and healthcare wishes won’t be honored if something were to happen to them? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, an estate plan can provide the peace of mind you seek. “Estate planning is essential for adults who want to protect their assets and fulfill long-term goals,” says Michelle Straughn, Executive Director at YourLife™ of Tallahassee, a Memory Care community in Tallahassee, Florida. “Meeting with financial and elder law professionals can help seniors and their families explore options and make sure all of the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.” If you’ve been putting off legalizing your loved one’s wishes, you’re not alone. Older adults in this 2016 study reported a lack of planning due to uncertainty about their future, being too healthy/too sick, offspring influences, denial and procrastination, pride, feeling overwhelmed, and financial concerns. The same study reported that older adults expressed reliance on their adult children for future support, even though many had not discussed their needs with their children. Starting the conversation with aging parents and adult children can be tough, but making sure your loved one’s financial, legal and medical decisions are known will take the agonizing guesswork out of “what would Mom want?” and relieve the burden of making important decisions under emotional duress or threat of urgency from your family’s shoulders. In this post, we’ll help you get started and avoid common financial and legal estate planning mistakes. FINANCIAL AND LONG-TERM CARE PLANNING Why it’s important: Managing personal finances is often one of the first abilities to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. If your loved one has memory loss, it’s critical to devise a financial plan for their long-term care and give yourself or someone you and your loved one trust the legal authority to monitor your loved one’s accounts, keep an eye out for financial problems and intervene if necessary. Financial abuse of older adults is extremely common, with billions of dollars lost every year. A financial plan can keep your loved one’s money (and future) safe by minimizing their vulnerability to scamming strangers, scheming “friends” and family members, and unethical opportunists in your loved one’s care circle. A financial planner specializing in elder estate planning can help your loved one secure asset protection, find long-term care solutions, and make sure your loved one is maximizing their assets. They’ll also help you take advantage of all available resources, including social security, investments and retirement funds as well as possible Veterans Aid & Attendance benefits for eligible wartime veterans and spouses, long-term care insurance policies, Medicare and other programs. Your loved one’s financial planner will need a list of all financial accounts, investments, valuable possessions, real estate holdings, income, expenses and projected long-term care costs. Make copies of all necessary statements and documents and fill out the Alzheimer’s Association’s Legal and Financial Worksheet prior to your appointment. HEALTHCARE AND ESTATE PLANNING Why it’s important: When a person is unable to make sound decisions – because of dementia or a medical reason, such as a bad fall, head injury or stroke – and they don’t have durable powers of attorney or healthcare directives on record, families who cannot agree on how to care for their loved one or manage their affairs must often resort to seeking guardianship in court. This is an expensive and difficult process that can be avoided with a legal plan. An elder law attorney will help you and your loved one obtain, understand and complete the legal paperwork they need to protect their wishes now, when healthcare needs advance and after end of life, including: • Healthcare proxy, powers of attorney, conservatorship and guardianship • Healthcare directives and state-specific advance directive for end-of-life care • POLST/MOLST (Physician/Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form. These are designed to make it easier for a person to get their preferred care in an emergency. POLST/MOLST forms and guidelines vary by state, but all may be suitable for older adults who have limited life expectancy or want a Do Not Resuscitate order. • Medicare and Medicaid Elder law attorneys who specialize in estate planning can help you navigate tax codes and other applicable laws and assist your family with the following: • When and how to transfer property to heirs • Tax and financial advantages of charitable trusts and gift annuities • Probate avoidance • Asset distribution • Wills and trusts • Financial, healthcare and legal powers of attorney • The difference between probate and non-probate assets Remember to keep wills, directives and other forms up to date as your loved one’s wishes, or health, legal or financial situations change. “Making these plans early gives families a chance to do their research, consider their loved one’s options, and help them make informed decisions,” says YourLife™ of Tallahassee’s Michelle Straughn. “Knowing how their loved one will be cared for and that their wishes will be honored when the time comes also allows families to enjoy the time they have together now without worrying about the future.” To learn how we help seniors and their families make informed decisions about their future care, call YourLifeTM of Tallahassee’s at 850-250-5671. Inspired ● Engaged ● Fulfilled If someone you love is living with memory loss, you want the very best for them. You’ll find it at YourLife™ of Tallahassee. Because Memory Care is all that we do, we have the unique ability to focus all our energy, attention and resources into creating an environment that caters to each resident’s needs, preferences and abilities while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families. We see each resident as an individual because we understand that each resident has their own story. Using this idea, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence while creating beautiful days. No matter how much care they need, our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists can assist with all activities of daily living while providing reminders, guidance, support and cues. Even better, residents and their families experience true peace of mind knowing that expert care is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our personal touch doesn’t stop at our care. In fact, it’s only just the beginning. We create days that leave residents feeling Inspired. Engaged. Fulfilled through our signature programming, YourStory. With individual experiences centered around each resident, engaging outings, services and amenities, activities, dining and more, we create opportunities to learn and pursue new endeavors. At YourLife™ of Tallahassee, everything was designed for you, but it is defined by you, creating a lifestyle that makes every day a joy. Contact us to learn more! Call us at 850-250-5671 for more information or to schedule a virtual tour today.