Important Advice on Choosing a Healthcare POA

Every estate plan needs a good helper(s). Choosing helpers can be really tough. These people will be responsible for making decisions when you can’t make them for yourself. A power of attorney for healthcare will allow someone to help you make a variety of decisions related to medical issues like treatments, surgeries, end of life decisions, living arrangements, and how to get the best care as you age.

Here are 9 key issues to consider when thinking about who you might choose for your healthcare power of attorney:

 

  1. How old should the person be?

    A power of attorney must be at least 18 years old because minor children are not legally allowed in this role. If you are considering younger adult children or family members, maybe in their 20s, it will depend on that person and their maturity level. Are they old enough or mature enough to handle these tough, and oftentimes weighty, decisions?

  2. Do you have ongoing health issues that family members are aware of?

    If a child has helped you face a chronic health issues for years, they may have a better understanding of the decisions you might face, and a better understanding of the decisions you would make for yourself.

  3. Who goes with you to the doctor?

    The person who most often attends doctor appointments, or takes you to appointments right now, might be a good choice for your healthcare power of attorney.

  4. Do you live near your children or other potential powers of attorney?

    If they live far away, that may make it more difficult for them to make informed and timely decisions on your behalf.

  5. If you are considering your spouse, is he or she facing any of their own health issues or memory issues?

    If so, will they be equipped to focus and be capable of clear thinking when faced with an important decision?

  6. What type of person will make the best medical decisions?

    Do you want someone who is compassionate? Most of us do, but what other traits might be important? Sometimes compassion is not enough. If a person tends to become emotional and overwhelmed in stressful situations, will they be able to make tough decisions in a timely fashion when needed? Sometimes a delayed decision or a lack of a decision can result in a situation you would have wanted to avoid — such as your life being prolonged artificially.

  7. Is the person able to be a peacemaker and consider other’s feelings and concerns in making the decision?

    Whether you choose your spouse, your child or another person as the healthcare POA, others can be included in the decision-making process. If your power of attorney is caring and works well with others, then they are more likely to value the input of others.

  8. Will your healthcare agent be able to do what they think is right, even if others strongly disagree?

    For instance, if your spouse knows exactly what you want done, will they be able to follow through even if your kids disagree? A person who is easily influenced by others may not be the best option as power of attorney.

  9. Can they be a good advocate for you?

    Good medical care often requires the patient or the power of attorney to ask good questions. It’s also helpful for your helper to be proactive in seeking out the proper treatment or course of action. Someone who passively says, “OK” to everything the doctor says may not be what you need.

We help families choose good helpers everyday. This is a difficult decision and one of the most important you’ll ever make. You don’t have to do it alone. We can help guide you through the process of deciding who is best.

While you’ll only do this once in your lifetime (or maybe twice), we’ve helped hundreds of families through this process since our firm started in 2008. We’ve seen A LOT over the years and gained wisdom from the families we’ve helped. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 if you would like guidance in choosing good helpers for your plan. We’re always happy to help!

Would You Know How to Stop Elder Abuse?

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was observed recently, and we shared some helpful information in our email newsletter. (Sign up for our educational newsletter here.) Elder abuse is a complex issue that can encompass physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It’s estimated that 5 million older Americans are victims every year. And while that is far too many, it is estimated that for every 1 case of reported abuse, there are 23 more out there that go unreported!

The focus of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this year was financial exploitation, which can take many forms. In developed countries like ours, abuse often involves theft, forgery, misuse of property and power of attorney, as well as denying access to funds.

Sadly, we see these things here in the office far too often. That’s why a few years ago we created a series on elder fraud. In this three part series, we explore common scams to watch out for, PLUS seven questions that can stop elder fraud in its tracks. Click on the links below to learn more so you can protect yourself or your loved ones:

It will take a community of loved ones, neighbors, professional advisors, case workers, etc. to continue to fight this shameful trend of taking advantage of seniors. Speaking up and educating people are important steps in the battle.

How Innovative Legal Help Saved the Relationship of Two Sisters

This is the real life story of two sisters, an annuity, nursing home costs, and why Medicaid Planning matters.

Mom did not have a lot, but she owned her home, had a steady retirement income, and had purchased two annuities. Each in the amount of $50,000.

Each daughter was named the beneficiary of “their” annuity and would, therefore, receive the $50,000 from the annuity when Mom passed away.

The older daughter fell on hard times and asked her mother if she could cash-in the $50,000 annuity. Mom agreed and the older daughter received her $50,000 “inheritance.”

The younger daughter, not needing her money, left her annuity in place as Mom had originally intended.

Unfortunately, several years later, Mom had a stroke and had to enter a nursing home. She privately paid for the nursing home costs until nothing was left but the home and the younger daughter’s $50,000 annuity.

But the annuity wasn’t truly the daughter’s. Mom was listed as the owner because she was still alive and would, therefore, have to spend the younger daughter’s inheritance before she could apply for Medicaid.

Of course this was very upsetting to the younger daughter. She was the one who hadn’t requested her money early. She was the one following Mom’s original plan for the money to pass upon her death. And yet, she was the one “being punished” financially by her Mom’s stay in the nursing home.

A Resolution

One of our attorneys sat down with the sisters for several hours listening to their story and devising a plan. In the end, we were able to develop a strategy that would allow an immediate transfer of the house to the daughter (thereby equalizing the daughters’ inheritances) while qualifying Mom for Medicaid several months later.

The mother continued to get the care she needed as she aged, and the daughters got a resolution to a very sticky situation. It was a very satisfying experience for our attorney and the two sisters!

We work with families everyday to find solutions to the challenges of estate planning — complicated family circumstances, business and farm succession planning, paying for a nursing home. It is our greatest pleasure when we can help families figure out legal solutions for complicated problems.

What Should You Do Next?

If you want to learn more about planning for exorbitant nursing home costs, check out the following resources:

  1. Download a copy of our Medicaid FAQ (that ran in a local publication) to learn more about paying for nursing care, qualifying for Medicaid, etc.
  2. Sign up for our Medicaid Planning e-course. This series of emails will teach you the basics about planning for Medicaid and applying for the benefit, plus provide you tangible steps to get started.
  3. Attend a free workshop to learn more about effective planning. At our workshop, How to Protect Your House and Life Savings from the Nursing Home, you’ll learn the five ways to pay for care, how benefits like Medicaid or VA can help get the care you or your loved ones needs, and the three keys to creating a “Good Care Roadmap” to protect your family and life savings. Check for upcoming dates here.
  4. If you need help right away, just give us a call at 217-726-9200. We understand that many cases like these are urgent. Our Benefits Coordinator, Melissa Coulter, will be more than happy to discuss your situation and what immediate actions should be taken.

(Video) When is the best time to contact an attorney about long-term care?

If you already know what an elder law attorney does, then you may be wondering when it’s best to contact them for help.

Anytime there is a transition period or crisis situation, your lawyer can help lay the groundwork for care and help get more benefits to pay for that care. Having a lawyer can help you understand your options if your loved one must move from their home or needs more care in an assisted living or nursing home facility.

Examples of transition times when an elder law attorney can help:

  • If you or your loved one are in the hospital or a rehab facility and may be unable to return home.
  • If you or your loved one are in an assisted living facility but are needing a higher level of care, possibly a skilled nursing facility.
  • If your loved one is unable to stay at home without additional help from family or caregivers to help with Activities of Daily Living.

Learn more in this video from Attorney David Edwards:

If you or a loved one is experiencing a transition where paying for care is a challenge and concern, we urge you to call us at 217-726-9200 and speak with our Benefits Coordinator, Melissa Coulter. She loves helping families find solutions for this very stressful time of life. If you want to learn more about planning for nursing home costs, feel free to attend an upcoming workshop, How to Protect Your House and Life Savings from the Nursing Home.

5 Big Risks of Adding Your Kids to Your Bank Account

The Truth About Adding Your Kids to Your Bank Account

Many parents think that “adding their children’s names to their bank account” is an easy way to be sure their kids can help if something unexpected happens, but it can cause some unintended consequences. Legally, what you are doing is naming a child as a joint owner of the account. This can have big legal implications that you might not intend. Despite friends or bankers telling you it’s a good idea, this sort of “coffee shop” legal advice can cause big problems down the road.

While naming your child(ren) as joint owner of your bank account could insure that bills and other obligations can be taken care of without you, it is best to understand what other problems you may be creating for yourself and your child by adding them to your bank account.

5 Risks of Simply Adding Your Child’s Name to Your Bank Account

There are many potential issues that could come up later if you add your child to your bank account now. Here are just a few to think about:

  1. If you die, the child on the account gets all the money in the account. This can be a real problem if there are several children in your family, but you only named one of them on the account. Even if you intended for all the children to share the money upon your death, legally the money belongs to the child whose name is on the account.
  2. If the child on your account gets sued or divorced, YOUR money in your bank account could be at risk.
  3. If your child becomes disabled (through a car accident or a stroke) after you are already disabled, then their spouse will gain control of the account and your money.
  4. If creditors come after your child, they could come after YOUR money in the “joint account.”
  5. If your child is on the account as a joint owner, then they have every legal right to come and take ALL the money from the account anytime they want. And there is not much you could do legally to stop them from doing so. You’re probably thinking, “My child would NEVER do that.” But money makes people do strange things. We see it nearly everyday.

2 Solutions That Can Prevent Future Problems

1. Power of Attorney

If you want a child to be able to pay your bills if you are sick, then name them a Power of Attorney instead of adding them as a joint owner of your bank account.

2. Payable Upon Death

If you want your money to go to your child or children at death, use a payable on death designation or give instructions in your will or trust.

Experienced Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorneys Can Help

Ultimately, you need to find solutions to accomplish your goals without creating unintended problems down the line. This is why it’s important to have the help and advice of an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney. Attorneys use legal tools like Powers of Attorney, trusts, wills and payable upon death designations to make sure things will go smoothly upon death or disability.

The most effective attorneys can help you solve problems without causing extra stress and unwittingly creating more problems down the road. Experienced estate planning and elder law attorneys should be able to anticipate the potential problems that your current actions may cause and prevent them through the use of legal solutions.

To continue learning more on the topic, download our free report, 12 Reasons Not to Give Your Property or Your Money to Your Kids Right Now. We also offer free monthly workshops for the community — Wills & Trusts: How to Get Started and How to Protect Your House and Life Savings from the Nursing Home. You can find upcoming dates for those workshops here or give us a call at 217-726-9200 to save yourself a spot.

give your house to your kids

(Video) Beware of What Happens When You Give Your House to Your Kids

When faced with the shocking costs of long-term care or a nursing home, many people have to scramble to figure out a way to pay the enormous fees. Realistically, the $6000+ a month it costs for a nursing home in Central Illinois is a big financial burden for most people. Many are left with Medicaid as the only possible way to get the care they need as they age. In fact, it is estimated that 70% of nursing home residents rely on Medicaid to pay their nursing home bill.

Without planning, the most common way to qualify for Medicaid is to “spend down” most of your assets.

So, in order to try and protect assets (like the family home), some people consider transferring their house or other assets to their kids. This can work for Medicaid, if done at least 5 years ahead of when care is needed, but there are risks involved.

The unintended consequences from this approach can create big problems. Learn more about the risks by downloading our guide, “12 Reasons Not to Give Your Property or Your Money to Your Kids Right Now,” or watch the following video where Attorney David Edwards explains a little more about the risks involved in giving money or property away to your children.

12 Duties of a Helper: What Do Executors, Trustees, Guardians and Powers of Attorney Really Do?

Every estate plan needs a good helper(s). Choosing those helpers can be tough. Your trustee, guardian, power of attorney or executor will be responsible for making decisions when you become disabled (like from a stroke or dementia) or pass away. But what exactly are they responsible for?

Your helper(s) will take on many financial, legal and managerial responsibilities on your behalf.

Here are 12 specific duties of a helper:

  1. Sell assets like cars, house or property
  2. Make tax decisions and file tax returns
  3. Pay bills
  4. File claim forms on IRAs, annuities and life insurance
  5. Follow the instructions of your Trust
  6. Make decisions about your care (at home, assisted living or nursing home)
  7. Manage investments
  8. Meet with attorneys and accountants
  9. Sign legal documents
  10. Negotiate sales of any property
  11. Referee disputes between other family memebers
  12. Tell beneficiaries “no” when they ask for money

It is especially important to choose a helper that you trust to manage your finances, as this will become a majority of their responsibility. A great way to decide if you have chosen the best helper is to look at how they currently manage their own life. How does it make you feel to envision your helper stepping in and managing your life right now? If it makes you nervous, perhaps it is best to reconsider whom you have chosen.

We are here to help you through the difficult decision-making process of choosing a trustee, executor, power of attorney or guardian. We guide people through this process all the time helping them know what they should consider when making this very important decision.

We have been through this with many families before, whereas the average family has only been involved in this process once, maybe twice. Let our experience guide you to peace of mind when it comes to choosing the right helper for your estate plan.

Learn more by reading “7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For” here. Or check out “3 Myths About Choosing a Helper for Your Plan” to find out some common misconceptions about who you should choose.

What You Need to Know About Nursing Care and Aging

So, what do nursing homes have to do with estate planning? When most people think about estate planning, they almost exclusively think of a Last Will & Testament, but a Will only works AFTER you pass away. A Will sets out what will happen, who’s in charge, and where your assets will go AFTER your death. Around the office, we refer to this as “death planning” because the plan you make goes into effect after you’re gone.

Because people are living longer, a new aspect of estate planning has emerged over the last decade. And this new type of planning is just as important as the traditional “death planning.” We call this form of planning, “Life Care Planning,”because it addresses the type of care you may need toward the end of your life.

It is difficult to face, but statistics tell us that 70% of people who reach the age of 70 will need some sort of long-term care (like a nursing home). The need for long-term care happens because of stroke, dementia or any number of health problems. When serious health issues crop up, you and your family will come face to face with the following questions:

  • How do we pay for good care?
  • How do we keep peace in the family during this extremely stressful time?
  • How do we protect our loved one’s life savings if the average cost of a nursing home in Central Illinois is $60,000/year?
  • How can we take maximum advantage of the help available to pay for good care?

The Basics of Needing Assistance as You Age

When it comes to needing assistance as you age, there are basically three choices:

  1. Stay at home with help. Many prefer to stay in their own home and hire someone to help with light housekeeping, meal preparation, bathing assistance or the activities of daily living (ADLs). However, in-home medical help can quickly become too expensive for most families.
  2. Move to an assisted living facility. At an assisted living facility, you have your own living space, meals provided in a common dining area, and social activities. In addition, they can help with care needs such as bathing and medication. In order to be in assisted living, one generally needs to be mobile (able to get to the dining room, get in and out of bed, etc.).
  3. Enter nursing home care. Most of us would like to avoid this option, but it is often a reality as medical complications from aging begin to stack up. In addition to meals and social activities, nursing homes provide around-the-clock-care, administer medications, offer rehabilitation (in the form of Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy), etc.

Every month we offer a workshop on this very topic. At this 1.5 hour workshop titled, How to Protect Your House and Life Savings from the Nursing Home, you’ll learn about protecting your life savings while still having options for care as you age. You’ll discover the 5 ways to pay for nursing or in-home care, plus how VA or Medicaid benefits can help get you the care you need. We’ll also talk about how a “Good Care Roadmap” can guide you through this stressful time of life. Check on upcoming dates for this free workshop.

why you need long-term care planning

Why You Need Long-term Care Planning

Finding good care as you age has always been stressful. And thanks to the rising costs of long-term care in the U.S., the last decade of life is now more stressful than ever. Long-term care planning (or Life Care Planning) can help make sure you get good care, help find ways to pay for the care and decrease stress so you can enjoy time with your loved ones.

Attorney David Edwards shares some of his thoughts on why you need long-term care planning.

If you or someone you know could benefit from long-term care planning, we encourage you to attend one of our upcoming workshops entitled, “How to Protect Your House and Life Savings from the Nursing Home.” See the upcoming dates here. At this 1.5 hour workshop you’ll learn more about the planning process and how to create a “Good Care Roadmap” to protect your family and life savings.

Veterans Aid & Attendance: A Little Known Way to Pay for Care as You Age

Many people are surprised to find out they qualify for aging Veterans’ benefits without having a service-related disability. The VA offers benefits that can be used by a Veteran or their surviving spouse to help with costs for in-home medical care, assisted living facilities and even nursing homes. Yet, these are one of the least known benefits for long-term care. According to the VA, 72% of those eligible don’t end up using these benefits they earned in service to their country.

What You Need to Know

In order to qualify, you (or your spouse) need to have served at least 90 days with 1 day of service occurring during these wartime periods:

  • WWII: December 7, 1941- December 31, 1946
  • Korea: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam: August 5, 1964 (or Feburary 28, 1961 for those “in country”) – May 7, 1975
  • Gulf War: August 2, 1990 – date determined by Congress

VA Benefits FAQ

Do I need an attorney to apply for benefits? I was told I could apply on my own with the VA.

You do not have to have an attorney help you plan for VA benefits. However, many families try to apply on their own and then are denied or stuck in bureaucracy for up to 2 years. An elder law attorney accredited with the VA can help families plan ahead BEFORE applying so you can get the maximum benefits and get it as quickly as possible.

I was told that it is illegal for an attorney to charge for preparing a VA application. So, how can an attorney help? 

It is true that the application must be done free of charge. However, BEFORE you file the application, an experienced attorney can help make sure all your ducks are in a row so you will qualify for the maximum benefit. Planning before the application is the key to making sure everything works properly.

Do VA benefits cover in-home care benefits? 

This is one of the greatest things about VA benefits! It can help pay for in-home care–even care provided by a family member other than a spouse. Many people think they can’t afford it and are overjoyed to hear how they can qualify for help at home.

Don’t I have too many assets to qualify for aid and attendance benefits? 

There are asset limits, but also many planning options available. Through legal planning, such as a Veterans Asset Protection Trust, you can rearrange your finances in order to qualify.

What are the pitfalls of applying for VA benefits?

Sometimes people rearrange their finances to qualify for VA benefits, but later need more care and then need to apply for Medicaid benefits. An experienced elder law attorney can help think ahead to keep your plan flexible if you need more care later.

Isn’t it overwhelming to go through the application process?

It can be. Some families try it on their own and get denied. Others get caught in the endless bureaucracy. Other families intend to apply, but the process is so daunting that they never proceed, losing months or years of benefits. By working with an accredited VA and elder law attorney, you can plan ahead, make sure you get the benefits quickly, and avoid a lot of stress.

Applying for Veterans Benefits Can Be Complicated… We Can Help

When applying for VA benefits and paying for long-term care, there is a lot to consider. Experienced elder law attorneys work with families facing the challenges of aging everyday. They work to find solutions that will ease the strain and bring financial and emotional relief.

If you need to speak with someone right away about your current situation, feel free to call or email Edwards Group LLC. One of our Client Coordinators will be happy to help you by phone at 217-726-9200 or email at info@EdwardsGroupLLc.com.