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Estate Planning Basics for Aging and Infirm Parents

One of the quickest ways to learn about the importance of having a solid and comprehensive estate plan is having to facilitate the process for elderly parents who encounter unexpected hardships. For adults with parents in their seventies or eighties, emerging health care issues may be the catalyst for decisions about factors not considered by a generation that may have associated estate planning more with financial issues resolved by a standard will. By seeking practical advice about strategies available to help a family cope with issues caused by advancing illness or the desire to keep a long-cherished family home, the younger generation can help elders avoid additional worries.

Several legal processes are available to confirm that trusted loved ones or counselors can make important decisions for people who are no longer in a position to do so for themselves. A durable financial power of attorney can be granted to a son or daughter to help an elderly parent manage a checkbook and make other money-related decisions. Such powers can also be made on a temporary basis to weather an illness or major surgery.

Regardless of an elderly parent’s condition, planning for future health care decisions can prove to be extremely helpful in times of crisis. A health care directive, or living will, can be used to express a person’s preferences regarding life support, resuscitation and other decisions that must be made when a person is gravely ill or wounded. Broader powers can be conferred by using a health care power of attorney, which empowers an individual or group of family members to make health care decisions at a time when an incapacitated person cannot. Like the financial power of attorney, a health care power of attorney can be made temporary or durable.

Seeking Steady Advice About Delicate Subjects

Just as important as any legal strategy, a family should consider common sense tactics for ensuring a parent’s financial health. An essential component of this is obtaining long-term care insurance to avoid the devastating effects of an expensive stay in a nursing home, whether temporary or permanent. Family members should also consider the need to plan for the expenses associated with living longer at home. By consolidating debt, trimming expenses and assessing options such as reverse mortgages, an elderly family member can obtain much-needed breathing room.

Discussing future decisions about health care and incapacity can be difficult, but early action is always preferable to hasty reaction during a time of stress and uncertainty. An experienced estate planning attorney can provide clear advice and help families assess whether it is time to take responsibility for a loved one’s affairs.