March 2021
Cocheco Elder Laww Associates Elder Law Update. News and important information for seniors and their families
Managing Your Loved One’s Legal Needs: A Checklist for Caregivers

In This Issue

Managing Your Loved One’s Legal Needs: A Checklist for Caregivers

 

Why Your Estate Plan Must Include More than a Will

 

A Personal Note From Tom

Serving as a caregiver may require you to oversee your loved one’s legal affairs. A recent article on AARP’s website addressed this issue and included a legal checklist for Caregivers. Here are the highlights.


Obtain Essential Legal Documents

Your loved one should have the following key legal documents: a Will, a Power of Attorney, and Advance Directives. We will discuss these documents in greater detail later. For now, it is important to note that these documents should be created, signed, and witnessed while your loved one is still capable of making legal decisions on his or her own.


Get the Whole Family Involved

It is important to have everyone in the family participate in caregiving decisions whenever possible. You may even want to put into writing “who is responsible for what.” While this is not a legal document, it can help avoid disagreements in the future.


Organize Your Loved One’s Important Papers

In addition to the essential legal documents mentioned above, you’ll want to find and organize a number of other documents, including:

  • Birth and Marriage Certificates
  • Divorce Decree
  • Citizenship Papers
  • Death Certificate of a Spouse or Parent
  • Deeds to Cemetery Plots
  • Military Discharge Papers
  • Insurance Policies
  • Pension Benefits

Investigate Opportunities for Financial Assistance

There are a number of programs and services available to elders and/or individuals with disabilities. These include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), veterans benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicare, and Medicaid. You can use online tools like the AARP Foundation’s Local Assistance Directory and the National Council on Aging’s Benefits Checkup to determine local, state, and federal programs for which your loved one might be eligible.


You should also examine your loved one’s retirement and insurance plans to see if any of them cover in-home care, skilled nursing care, mental health services, physical therapy, and other forms of short-term assistance. Your loved one’s life insurance policy might even provide accelerated death payments to help pay for long-term care.

Also, if you must take a leave of absence from your job to care for a loved one, you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. In addition, some employers offer paid family leave, and five states (New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and California) plus the District of Columbia have laws mandating paid leave for caregiving. Several other states are set to implement such laws by 2023.


Explore Tax Breaks and Life Insurance Deals

Your loved one may be able to receive federal tax deductions for health care expenses such as a wheelchair or hospital bed, remodeling the home to make it more accessible, and hiring a short-term or part-time home health aide to provide respite for the primary caregiver. Be sure to save receipts for all medical expenses.


Read the entire AARP article

Why Your Estate Plan Must Include More than a Will

A Last Will and Testament is an essential legal document that allows you to accomplish a number of important goals. You can name your beneficiaries and specify the assets you want them to receive; name a guardian for your minor children; and choose the person you want to settle your estate (known as the Executor).

 

In short, a Will helps ensure your wishes are carried out after you pass away. However, it does not ensure that your wishes regarding your finances and medical care will be followed if you become incapacitated. For that you will need other essential documents.

 

Power of Attorney for Health Care

A Power of Attorney for Health Care, also known as a Health Care Proxy, allows you to name a person you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to make them on your own. Medical decisions covered by your Power of Attorney for Health Care can include choice of doctors and other health care providers; types of treatments; long-term care facilities; end-of-life decisions, such as the use of feeding tubes; and do not resuscitate orders.

 

Power of Attorney for Finances

Similar in concept to the Power of Attorney for Health Care, a Power of Attorney for Finances allows you to designate another person to make decisions about your finances, such as income, assets, and investments, when you can longer make them yourself.

 

By choosing your decision-makers in advance through powers of attorney, you and your loved ones can avoid the expense, stress, delays, and potential for family infighting associated with a court-ordered guardianship proceeding.

 

Living Will

A Living Will allows you to express your wishes regarding what medical treatments you want, or do not want, in an end of life situation. A Living Will differs from a Power of Attorney for Health Care in that it details your specific wishes, whereas a Power of Attorney for Health Care allows someone else to make health care decisions for you.

 

Another benefit of a Living Will is that it spares your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions about your care without knowing what you would have wanted.

 

HIPAA Release

A HIPPA Release lets you choose who can receive information about your medical condition. Hospitals and medical providers can be prosecuted for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) if they reveal your medical information to people not named in your HIPPA Release.

 

To ensure your wishes are carried out while you are alive and after you pass away, your estate plan should include all of the legal documents mentioned above.

 

Of course, estate planning can help you accomplish many other goals as well. For example, with a Revocable Living Trust your estate won’t have to go through probate. This will expedite the distribution of estate assets to loved ones and keep your financial information private. A Revocable Living Trust also allows you to stipulate when and under what conditions your heirs will receive their assets, which is useful if you think your children are not yet mature enough to handle an inheritance. Other tools, such as an Irrevocable Trust, can protect your assets against threats like long-term care costs, divorce, creditors, lawsuits, and more.

 

We invite you to contact us at your earliest convenience to discuss your unique planning needs and goals.

 

A Personal Note From Tom

Incorporate the Power of Positive Thinking Into Your Estate Plan


Scientific studies have found a wide range of benefits from a positive outlook and positive thinking. Happy people tend to be more successful, healthier, and live longer. In this pandemic, too many of us are focused on worst-case scenarios and gloomy predictions. If you can resist the pull of negativity and embrace the power of positive thinking, you can increase your own wellbeing as well as that of your children or other beneficiaries by creating an estate plan designed to promote their happiness. The legacy you create will enable your children and beneficiaries to live healthier and more prosperous lives.


During this time of crisis, a positive attitude is more important than ever. We can help you identify the ways you can incorporate positivity into your estate planning. The result will provide you with the assurance and peace of mind that you are providing your family with financial security and are leaving a positive legacy. The legacy you create will foster your loved ones’ well-being and future success.


Please call us today to schedule a meeting so we can discuss how you can best achieve your positive estate planning goals. We are prepared to meet with you in person, over the phone or video conference if you desire.

Tom