BY ROBYN WALTON
One incredibly important conversation you need to have with your family is: Where do you want to live and who do you want to care for you if you can no longer do all of the basic self-care tasks on your own?
Failing to make a plan about your specific wishes concerning your living arrangements – before becoming disabled – can be devastating to your family.
Let me share two hypothetical examples:
Jim’s son Kevin moved in with Jim after his wife died. Kevin’s family helped Jim with yard work, meals preparation, cleaning and laundry. As Jim’s health declined, Kevin’s family also had to help with Jim’s medications, dressing, bathing, shopping, and all of his driving.
Jim told Kevin he wanted him to get the house after his death or at least have the option to buy it at a lower price. But nothing was ever written down.
After Jim’s death, his trust required the assets to be distributed equally to all of Jim’s kids and no mention was ever made for Kevin to receive the house or buy it at a discount.
Paul has been widowed for many years and no longer felt able to live on his own. He asked his youngest daughter, Kathy, and her husband to move in with him.
Paul signed his house over to Kathy with a Quit Claim Deed and put Kathy on his checking account so she could pay the bills.
Even though Paul left a will stating he wanted his estate to be divided equally amongst his kids Kathy got the house and rationalized that the house was compensation for taking care of her father.
What’s the solution to what ended up becoming big problems?
• Take the time now, while you are healthy and have a clear mind, to discuss your plan candidly with your loved ones, and how your financial situation may affect that plan.
• Draft written documents with a qualified Elder Law Attorney to memorialize your plan either in a “Caregiver Agreement” or by making changes to your existing will or trust.
• Sign a Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Directive that authorize a trusted loved one to make decisions hire/pay caregivers.
Don’t leave important decisions to chance like Jim and Paul. Have the tough conversations now about these hard decisions while you are still mentally and physically able to deal with these issues.
To locate a qualified elder law attorney visit naela.org.