Care Giving Legal Issues Start Years Before Needed and Why?
In this first blog article, we need to start from the beginning, 5 years before you think your loved ones will actually need your help. The more financially well off your loved one is, the more important it is to start early. A financial advisor will tell you to do this 15 or 20 years earlier. You may think your loved one will live for another 20 years but life is fragile and uncertain. Illness, a car accident or unknown genetics can cut a life down by years. The minimum you need to start is 5 years before your loved one will need your help. Once your loved one shows any signs of mental decline, problems with finances, paying the bills, and rational thinking is the time to see an attorney if not before. If you have gone through caring for a loved one, you understand how important this is.
Make an appointment with an attorney specialized in elder law for your state. Consult a tax law attorney if there are a lot of assets involved. You need to draw up a current will, health care directive, current powder of attorney for legal matters and a power of attorney for health care matters. This wording needs to be spelled out by an elder law attorney on all the paperwork. You may miss certain language or points that are critical for later. Have the attorney explain what ever wording you do not understand. Take time to really go over the paperwork to see if he by chance missed anything. If there is a lot of money involved, check out the experience and education of the attorney first. Not any attorney will do. He must be experienced in elder law matters. Go to seminars that may be held at the local senior centers to become more educated. They give lectures as well on medicare and insurance issues with the elderly. You need to become an expert on the subject so you know if the attorney is doing his job.
Even if your loved one has no money, it is important. You cannot help your loved one manage their money, pay bills, and deal with medical issues without the legal paperwork. You cannot save them from scams that may bankrupt them financially. You cannot stop them from giving away all their financial resources without legal paperwork. Your parent may seem normal in the early stages except for loss of the ability to discern companies whose main goal is to take advantage of the elderly and their money. In the early stages it is easy for your loved one to fool their doctor and other professionals into thinking they are stable mentally until its too late.
Care Giving Legal Issues Starts Years Before You Need Them! Why is the timing of these legal issues so important?
If you wait until their mind and thinking is questionable, a lawyer or notary will say they are mentally incompetent to understand and sign the needed will and paperwork. My father in law would not let us take over his affairs until he had blown many thousands of dollars on scams from Europe. He only turned his affairs over to us when he was broke with no food money for the month. He had sent scammers his rent money on top of everything else. We did get the paperwork done but it was right on the edge of his ability to reason at that point.
He was a commander who made about $5000 a month which then put him above the income level for most assistance. When he entered the nursing home in the last 5 weeks of his life, they wanted to have us sign paperwork for medicaid which we did not. Medicaid and nursing homes go back 5 years to assess their financial status. If you transferred money, property or real estate within that 5 year period, your loved one will be disqualified for Medicaid Assistance. Each state differs in these rules, so you need to seek the services of a elder law attorney early. In my father in law’s case he was sending cash, huge amounts of cash to men in foreign countries. The bank records only showed cash taken out with no proof of who it went too. He had been involved with these scams for 10 years. In the end, they took over his life with phone calls and constant harassment.They threatened him by phone and mail. We could have never proved to Medicaid where that money went and so would have been disapproved. His dad was not a veteran who had disabilities through the service so in the end that was a problem in financing. We might have gotten him approved but it takes months for the paperwork and we did not realize it was a problem. Tri- Care does not pay for long term nursing home expenses once Medicare’s 90 day nursing home stay period is over. Then it becomes private pay at the tune of $4000 to $8000 per month. You need to delve into what your loved ones insurance does pay and what benefits they may not be covered for. Is he a vet or is he just retired military with Tri-Care? What are their financial resources available for the future. These have to be explored or your loved one could really be in trouble later on financially. Do you have the resources to support them?
When your loved one begins to lose their memory, in the first stage of the illness, when they still are able to reason, is when this needs to be a focus. Again, this article is to encourage you to visit an elder law attorney to make sure all your loved one affairs are in order before they lose their health or ability to reason.
Kate Freer, Master Herbalist, Researcher, Writer and Professional Caregiver for many years.
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