By Robert J. Green
No one wants to be a burden on his or her friends and family. And no one wants to lose his or her independence. Yet, so many of my clients express deep concern about both. Seniors want to ensure that their families are not disrupted when the complications of life occur. Be it a fall and injury, the onset of dementia, an unexpected chronic illness, or just loss of energy and slowing down – seniors do not want their problems to effect those around them. Many of the seniors I work with have spent the bulk of their lives caring for others. They are rarely ready to be cared for themselves. My clients are often very realistic about the possibility that they need help with certain things or may even have to move out of their home at some point to receive adequate care. However, they also want and deserve to have the most important voice in those decisions.
What can seniors do to address these concerns? The answer lies in the old adage: “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Seniors wishing to reduce the chances of becoming a burden or losing their independence can do a lot to protect against these outcomes. Using Estate Planning to achieve Independence Protection should be discussed with a trusted and competent lawyer sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, many seniors do not realize that the time to lay the foundation for prolonged independence is now, not tomorrow. In a world where anything can happen, procrastination can hurt you.
So, where does one start in the Independence Protection Planning process? Legal planning is the cornerstone of protecting independence. Ask a competent estate planning attorney to give specific answers to the following questions related to protecting independence:
1) How will your legal documents (wills, trusts, powers of attorney, etc.) reduce or eliminate the chance that a judge will need to appoint a Guardian and Conservator to make your healthcare and financial decisions for you?
2) How will your legal documents inform others of your instructions related to where you will live, who will provide your care, what care you will receive, and how your assets should be used to provide for you and for those you care about?
3) How will your legal documents help ensure that your long-term care (in-home care, assisted living, skilled nursing, etc.) will be paid for without devastating your other financial goals, including leaving assets to loved ones?
Don’t leave these matters to chance or the discretion of a judge you’ve never met. Put your house in order today, so that it will be the home you want to live in tomorrow.
This has been presented as general information and not as legal advice. Do not engage in legal decision-making without the advice of a competent attorney after discussion of your specific circumstances.