4 Things You Can Do to Avoid a Messy Guardianship

You may have read in a previous post that Buzz Aldrin has been fighting with his children over his own competency. Aldrin’s children are concerned that he is not able to make good choices any longer… In that same article we talked with Attorney Amanda Lundeen about what everyone should know about adult guardianships. In that same conversation, she gave us four tips to avoid an ugly guardianship yourself.

How to Avoid a Messy Guardianship

1. Get good Powers of Attorney in place while you’re well.

Planning early is more effective than planning during a crisis. Research is pretty clear that decision-making ability and cognition start declining as people age. It is important to think about comprehensive planning before this becomes problematic — somewhere around 60-65 is typically a good rule of thumb.

2. Keep your Powers of Attorney (and your plan) up to date.

It is a pain, but many institutions will not honor a Power of Attorney that is more than a year or two old. We say this all the time, but estate planning is not a one-time deal. Keep your plan up to date with the 3 L’s of Estate Planning, or join our Dynasty Program and be sure your plan will be ready for action when the time comes.

3. Use a professional who understands down-the-road needs of seniors.

Experienced elder law attorneys should be able to help you anticipate what needs may arise in the future. In addition, they should have effective planning tools that can help address those needs.

4. Communicate with your family.

Tell them who you’ve named and consider explaining your thinking on that decision. It’s also important to discuss how you want things dealt with. One of the biggest challenges as we age is discussing with our children things that we’ve never discussed with them before — finances, healthcare, end-of-life preferences, etc. The sooner you can start having those conversations, the easier it will be when things become difficult and an acute problem crops up. The more your children understand your feelings on these issues, the better they will be able to make the decisions you’d want made. This sets them up for success, and certainly will benefit you in the long-run as well.

As usual, planning ahead and thinking through the challenges of aging before they happen is the best way to make sure you and your family can face these difficulties without creating extra stress or expense. Most people don’t know how to manage all the issues that arise with aging loved ones, so Edwards Group developed a holistic way to help families think through the legal, financial, and care issues that develop as someone ages.

In addition to a thorough and effective estate plan, a Life Care Plan offers the option of partnering with us to plan for your care and help you navigate decisions on your journey through the aging process. Our latest workshop, Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning and Peace of Mind, is a great place to start learning about the components of an effective plan that will effectively address the challenges of aging while protecting your legacy. Call us at 217-726-9200 to RSVP for an upcoming workshop.

 

nursing home medicaid planning

4 Things Everybody Should Know About Guardianship

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin has been in the news a lot recently. Aldrin, his children, and even his business manager, are embroiled in a lawsuit over whether Aldrin is competent to continue managing his finances and his life. Sadly, this guardianship feud between Aldrin and his adult children has caused a lot of people to wonder, “How on earth does this sort of thing happen to someone like Buzz Aldrin? How can I avoid being in a similar situation someday?”

What Everybody Ought to Know About Guardianship

Attorney Amanda Lundeen doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about guardianship for seniors. She is the primary attorney who handles these cases at Edwards Group. “Sometimes guardianship is necessary for a variety of reasons, but it’s never the ideal option. It is a stressful process for any family.”

As you consider what tools you need to have in place as you age, there are four things you should know about guardianship for seniors:

1. Guardianship is expensive.

It takes two attorneys — one to represent the senior and one to represent the party trying to gain guardianship — along with court fees and fees to serve the summons. It’s an official legal process without any shortcuts, and that means red tape and expense.

2. Other family members are involved in the process.

(And that may not be a good thing.) Much like when a Will goes through probate, all family members must be made aware when a guardianship is being filed. Children, siblings, parents, etc. all have to be officially notified. This is not only difficult for the privacy of the person who may need the guardianship, but it can also invite interference and disagreement amongst family members, complicating an already stressful process.

3. Guardianship doesn’t solve all the problems.

Many people approach guardianship with the unrealistic expectation that it will suddenly resolve the difficult situation they find their family in. The guardian has authority (and responsibility) for representing the disabled person in dealing with others (medical providers, financial institutions, etc.), but there is one person who may not honor the guardianship — the disabled person. If a family is dealing with an uncooperative individual, guardianship isn’t going to suddenly make that person compliant.

4. Guardianship is an EXTREME option.

It’s really a last resort for families, and like we’ve said, this means there is a complicated and difficult situation going on that demands an extreme solution. Guardianships can often be contested, and when they are they get UGLY. (As you can see in the Buzz Aldrin case.)

If guardianship is so terrible, what can you do to avoid it? Attorney Amanda Lundeen gives four tips to avoid this mess yourself. Check it out in this blog post.

Most people don’t know how to effectively manage the issues that come about with aging. They only handle it once or twice in their lifetime. Edwards Group sees it all the time, and that’s why we developed a holistic way to help families think through the legal, financial, and care issues that unfold as someone ages. Our team is uniquely qualified to provide services and support to families who have questions and concerns about aging, illness, and long-term care needs. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 and ask to speak with an Elder Care Advisor today.

Mom Is Having Memory Trouble and the Family Is Worried

Every week we talk with several families who are worried about the challenges of aging and call us for help. Recently, a family was concerned about mom’s declining memory and dementia.

Mom is mostly unaware of her inability to handle things on her own and really wants to keep control of her keys and the checkbook. She has handled these things for years and is not about to give them up.

Dad is worried about Mom. He’s concerned she’ll wander off or drive somewhere and get lost. He’s increasingly uncomfortable leaving her home alone, worried she’ll try to use the stove and not remember to turn it off. At the same time, he feels terribly guilty when he thinks about taking away the car keys. He feels really stuck and unsure of what to do.

The daughter lives only five minutes away. She is worried sick about her parents, and the situation is adding a lot of stress to her life. She knows her mom is unsafe, so she does all she can to help, but she has a family of her own and works full time. Because her dad is stuck and doesn’t know what to do to keep her mom safe, she is feeling immense pressure to be the parent of her own parents. This is a really uncomfortable spot for her.

The son lives really far away. (Let’s say Florida.) He tries to come home every year, but it’s been almost 18 months since he’s been back. He thinks his sister is trying to be too controlling and take over everything. He knows his mom and dad have slipped some, but they seem fine when he calls them every few weeks.

So, here we are. We’ve got issues of:

  • safety,
  • feelings of guilt,
  • changing family dynamics,
  • and sibling friction

all mixed up together in a big, stressful situation.

How can we bring this family together to make the right decisions?

This situation is hard. But this situation is a common one.

To maneuver more easily through these types of life changes, families need help with legal, financial, and care decisions. This is what we do every day.

Are you facing a situation with an aging loved one where you could use some guidance from someone who has walked through these issues before? Or do you know someone who is struggling with a similar situation and doesn’t know what to do?

We encourage you to call our office for immediate help. Our Elder Care Advisors will be happy to speak with you at 217-726-9200.

Who Needs a Life Care Plan?

In a recent blog post, we talked about the challenges that our extended lifespan creates these days. Because people are living into their 80’s and 90’s on a regular basis, this creates financial, physical, medical and emotional struggles. Seeing families struggle with massive amounts of financial and emotional stress on a daily basis as their loved ones age caused us to ask, “What can we do to help? Because there must be a better way!”

As a result, the role of Elder Care Advisors were born and this interdisciplinary team now works to identify existing and potential care needs, locate appropriate care, preserve family wealth to the greatest extent possible, and support the family during this incredibly stressful time. They do this by creating a Life Care Plan. You can read more about all that here.

So, who needs a Life Care Plan?

Oftentimes, a Life Care Plan comes about after a trigger event — a serious incident (or series of events) that leaves family members concerned about their loved one’s future. Trigger events can be any of the following:

  • A diagnosis of cancer, Alzheimer’s or any other chronic condition
  • A catastrophic event such as a fall, medication mishap, fire, accident in the home, or car accident
  • Discovering that your loved one is wandering, malnourished, dehydrated, or unable to care for him/herself due to functional limitations
  • Prolonged or frequent hospital stays or emergency room visits
  • A serious medical event such as a stroke, heart attack or aneurysm
  • Burnout of the loved one’s primary caregiver

While trigger events like these are the most common motivator for seeking the help of an Elder Care Advisor, some people plan ahead and create a Life Care Plan before crisis strikes. (Read about the different life stages of planning here.) Planning beforehand allows you to be more thoughtful and more proactive in developing a plan for aging. Decisions made beforehand tend to be better than decisions made quickly during the stress and chaos of a crisis.

What services does a Life Care Plan include?

Each Life Care Plan is customized to meet the needs of the individual and family. Most Life Care Plans will include one or more of the following services, but are not limited to these, either. Our team truly tries to identify the most pressing need for the family/loved one and does whatever it takes to help. (They’ve even been known to help with estate sales while clients transition to assisted living.)

Care Coordination

Many families who need help protecting an elder loved one’s assets also need help finding and coordinating care. They may also need help with decision-making as the elder’s condition progresses. For example, one of Edwards Group’s Elder Care Advisors is a physical therapist by training, so she assists families in deciding how long their loved ones can safely stay at home, or what can be done to make the home a safer place. No matter the unique issue your family faces, our experienced team will guide you through these stressful transitions and decisions, helping you make the best choices possible.

Identifying Financial Resources for Care

Nursing homes and long-term care are incredibly expensive, and many families struggle to find and pay for good care for their loved ones. One of our top priorities is helping those families who are facing this urgent issue. We want to give families peace of mind by reviewing ways to pay for care, which might include restructuring assets or investments, understanding Medicare, making claims on long-term care insurance, and pursuing public benefits like Medicaid or VA Aid & Attendance. In addition, we can help with intimidating medical bills, EOBs, and insurance forms. Our Elder Care Advisors can help with, and resolve, many important issues related to healthcare and long-term care.

Legal Services

The legal issues created by aging, illness, chronic conditions, or disability can be terrifying. That’s why every Life Care Plan includes a customized mix of legal services designed to protect the loved one’s interests and to provide for dependents and other family members now and in the future. Your Life Care Plan will include elder law, estate planning, and advocacy services that are appropriate for your loved one’s circumstances. You and your family can relax knowing that you are surrounded with legal support from an experienced team who are familiar with every aspect of your situation.

Client Advocacy

Aging loved ones have a legal right to safe, effective, and patient-centered care, whether that’s in the hospital or a long-term care facility. A Life Care Plan protects those rights. Our attorneys and Elder Care Advisors work together to provide advocacy services that empower family caregivers and protect quality of life for seniors.

If you or a loved one are struggling with the challenges or expense of aging, Edwards Group can help! Just give us a call at 217-726-9200 and ask to speak with one of our Elder Care Advisors. You don’t have to struggle on this journey alone. Help and support is available today.

helper; trustee; executor

Elder Care Advisors: Helping People Age Well

These days, our extended life span creates a lot of challenges when it comes to managing the financial, physical, medical, and emotional reality of aging in America. We recently asked those who are facing retirement, or beginning to struggle with the challenges of aging, what their top concerns were. Here is what they said:

  • I want to stay in my home as long as possible.
  • I’m concerned about navigating the long-term care system and finding good care.
  • I’m worried about not being able to drive anymore and being isolated and lonely.
  • How do I maintain my independence for as long as possible?
  • I’m concerned about how to find quality care I can afford.
  • I’m worried about health issues and paying for healthcare.
  • I want to preserve my options as I age — financial, medical and quality of life.
  • I’m worried about finding good assisted living or nursing homes when the time comes.
  • What will I do if my family isn’t nearby and I need them? My kids live in New Jersey and Arizona.

We know there are thousands of families struggling with these issues on a daily basis in Central Illinois, and it’s why we’ve developed a solution. When Attorney David Edwards started his own law firm in 2008, he knew he wanted a firm solely dedicated to effective estate planning and the tremendous peace of mind it can bring to families. What he didn’t know was that his journey would lead to helping families achieve peace of mind through more than just legal planning. As we helped more and more families navigate the challenges of aging, find ways to pay for good nursing care for loved ones, and helped Veterans obtain benefits to pay for in-home care as they aged, it became apparent that nearly every family struggles with this time of life. We think it’s the most stressful time of the lifespan!

What is an Elder Care Advisor?

As a result, we’ve formed an interdisciplinary team that works together to identify current and potential care needs, locate appropriate care, preserve family wealth to the greatest extent possible, and support the family during this stressful time. As a part of that interdisciplinary team, the Elder Care Advisors serve as guide, encourager, counselor, resource gatherer, and advocate during the journey. Our Elder Care Advisors include a nurse, physical therapist, social worker, EMT, etc. Each one has unique experiences that equip them to support families and create personalized plans that confront the challenges those families face.

What is a Life Care Plan?

A Life Care Plan defines, organizes, prioritizes, and mobilizes every aspect of an elder’s care. The goal of Life Care Planning is to promote and maintain the health, safety, well-being, and quality of life for those who are struggling with the challenges of aging. Every Life Care Plan is designed to do three things:

  1. Preserve Quality of Life

    Make sure the elder loved one gets appropriate care (whether at home or in a residential facility) in order to maintain the quality of life that he or she desires.

  2. Pay for Care

    Find solutions to help pay for long-term care and guide families through the issues created by the high cost of care.

  3. Offer Peace of Mind

    Offer peace of mind that results when the right choices are made to ensure loved ones are safe and getting the right care while preserving family resources.

Read more about WHO needs a Life Care Plan here.

If you or a loved one are struggling with the challenges or expense of aging, Edwards Group can help! Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to schedule a meeting or a phone consultation with an Elder Care Advisor. You don’t have to struggle on this journey alone. We walk this path with you. Help and support are available. Give us a call today!

New Medicare Cards Continue to Be Mailed Out

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) continue to mail out new Medicare cards to residents of Illinois. The rollout started in June, but continues into July.

Sadly, along with any big wholesale change like this (affecting roughly 60 million seniors across the country), we see people trying to take advantage of the situation. Experts have been warning for some time that there will be scams and schemes related to this nationwide rollout of new Medicare cards.

Here are 5 tips taken from a former fugitive hunter:

  1. Medicare will NEVER call, email or text you to ask for personal information, especially your social security number — protecting your social security number is the biggest reason behind the change in cards.
  2. The new cards cost NOTHING. If you’re asked to pay a fee to expedite delivery of your new card, it’s a scam. If someone contacts you asking you to pay for anything related to your new card, it is a scam. You will receive your card at no cost to you when your name/address comes up in the government’s schedule.
  3. Medicare will not contact you via phone, email or text to discuss your “new” benefits or to find out if you’ve received your new card. If you get communication like this, it’s a scam!
  4. If someone calls, emails or texts you and claims your Medicare benefits are in jeopardy of being cancelled unless you do something, this is a scam.
  5. Medicare does not accept payment in the form of gift cards, wired money or credit cards.

If you receive a call or another kind of communication where you are being asked personal information or are being “threatened” (i.e. “give us this or else your benefits will be canceled”), just HANG UP. People who prey on seniors do so because they know you’ve been taught to be polite and kind. After hanging up, immediately call the Illinois Senior Medicare Patrol at AgeOptions at (800) 699-9043.

For additional information, check out this tip sheet, New Medicare Cards: What YOU Need to Know. You can also check the status of the card mailings in your area, and sign up to get an email notification when your new card is in the mail at medicare.gov/newcard.

As always, if you have any questions, or we can help you with anything related to the challenges of aging, give our Elder Care Advisors a call at 217-726-9200.

4 Things You May Not Know About POA’s

Some people get nervous when they think about signing a Power of Attorney. Maybe they saw a movie where a guy was swindled out of a fortune when he signed one. Maybe giving someone control over your affairs is unsettling to you. Whatever the case may be, Powers of Attorney (POAs) can seem intimidating.

In our experience, most people don’t have a problem signing a POA and find them immensely helpful during difficult times.

POAs are simply tools you can use for your benefit. The circumstances surrounding them are rarely as dramatic as in the movies. In fact, they can be quite mundane. For instance, if you were to sell your house but were scheduled to be out of town on the day of the closing, you could give your real estate agent power of attorney. That way you don’t have to spend hours traveling just to sit in an office and sign on a couple dotted lines.

Around here, we commonly use POAs as tools to help people remain in control longer – a tool to help friends and loved ones make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so yourself.

Just like anything else, the more you understand about POAs, the less intimidating they’ll seem. To that end, here are four things you may not realize about Powers of Attorney:

1. POAs are voluntary. A person can revoke or change them at any time.

2. POAs should be prepared BEFORE you need them. If you suddenly get very ill, you may not have time to get a POA done before it’s too late. Once you are unable to communicate, it’s too late to sign a POA.

3. POAs cease upon death. The person you name as Power of Attorney will no longer be able to make decisions or act on your behalf after you pass away unless they are named executor or trustee. Either way, the role of POA ceases and other roles step in.

4. POAs must be kept current. Life insurance companies, banks, and investment companies are very particular about POAs.

Hopefully you’re a bit more comfortable with the idea of using POAs. It’s not just a tool for you — it’s a benefit for your loved ones as well. If you’re incapacitated and you haven’t named someone Power of Attorney, your spouse and/or children will have a difficult time making legal and financial decisions for you. They may have to go through an expensive, intrusive guardianship proceeding. So it’s a good idea to have POAs signed in preparation for these kinds of unexpected events.

Use POAs wisely, sign them when you’re fully mentally and physically capable, and give them to people you trust. They’re an excellent tool to protect you and make your loved ones’ lives easier during a difficult time.

If you have questions about POAs or would like to create one as part of an effective plan, give us a call at 217-726-9200.

nursing home medicaid planning

4 Questions to Answer When Facing a Healthcare Crisis

Most people don’t connect estate planning and healthcare issues. However, as people live longer and face the skyrocketing costs of aging in America, a new aspect of estate planning has emerged. We call it “Life Care Planning.” This type of planning addresses the type of care you may need toward the end of life and how to pay for that care.

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 can arise because of stroke, dementia or any number of serious health problems that develop as people age.

4 Questions Every Family Will Have to Answer When Faced With a Health Crisis for an Aging Loved One

When health problems crop up, you and your family will come face to face with the following questions:

  1. How do we pay for good care?
  2. How do we keep the peace in the family during this extremely stressful time?
  3. How do we protect our loved one’s (or our) life savings if the average cost of a nursing home in Central Illinois is $78,000 a year?
  4. How can we take maximum advantage of the help that is available to pay for good care?

Part of what we do in guiding families through this stressful time of life is to help answer these questions by creating a Good Care Roadmap. Our monthly workshop, “Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind” is a great way to learn more about this crucial aspect of planning. Check out the upcoming dates for the workshop here.

We also understand that timing is critical when families are facing serious transition points such as a cancer diagnosis, progressing dementia or a sudden stroke. If you or someone you love is in crisis because of a serious medical issue, we urge you to give our Benefit Coordinators, Melissa Coulter and Melina Carlesi, a call today at 217-726-9200. They guide families through this time of life on a daily basis. It’s all they do everyday!

We regularly hear from families who say they can’t imagine getting through this difficult time without the help of an experienced guide. It is one of our greatest pleasures to relieve stress and help get good care for loved ones who are aging!

Medicaid FAQ

Using a government benefit such as Medicaid is a fairly common way to pay for long-term care. According to AARP, 65% of nursing home residents use Medicaid to pay for their care. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there, which makes this very stressful time of life even harder for everyone involved.

Here are 7 common questions about Medicaid that we are frequently asked:

Q1: My loved one needs nursing care and I don’t know how to pay for it. How can an elder law attorney help?

A: An elder law attorney can help you legally set aside savings for the benefit of nursing home residents that would otherwise be economically devastated by the cost of nursing home care. Medicaid planning savings can be used for many things not covered by Medicaid, such as a private room for those with behavioral issues from dementia or companion caregivers to help supplement many overworked nursing homes. Without Medicaid planning, your family will have to get out their own checkbook or debit card to buy you the things you need. Learn more about Medicaid Planning with our free report.

Q2: My mother is already in a nursing home. Isn’t it too late to plan?

A: As long as you (or somebody you know) are writing checks to a nursing home, then it’s not too late. Good planning can gain access to benefits sooner than you thought possible, and in bigger amounts than you thought possible, all while still protecting your house, your savings or property. Read how an elder law attorney can help even if your loved one is already in a nursing home.

Q3: I was told there was noting that could be done except to “spend down” all the money.

A: This piece of wrong information usually comes from nursing home case workers. As nice and knowledgeable as those workers are, they are not experts in the financial planning or legal field. You need an advocate, so you have more options and more resources available to you and your family. Experienced elder law attorneys, such as Edwards Group, help families face these issues every single day. There are other options besides spending down all your assets. We generally see four periods of planning when it comes to paying for a nursing home.

Q4: Will I lose my home?

A: What happens to the house depends on whether a person is single or married. If married, and one spouse goes to the nursing home, the healthy spouse can rest easy because the home is protected.

However, if a single person needs nursing home care, the house is not protected. Although someone can possibly get Medicaid while owning a house, eventually the state will put a lien on the house to recoup the benefits paid.

Q5: How much money can be saved by consulting an elder law attorney?

A: This answer varies from family to family, and also depends on if your loved one is already in a nursing home, but at the very minimum, often 50 to 80% of remaining assets can be saved. The earlier you start planning, the more can be protected.

Q6: Won’t the help of an attorney be too expensive?

A: The average cost of a nursing home in Springfield is around $6500 a month, or about $78,000 per year. Now that’s expensive! The cost of planning varies from family to family, but families often feel it’s the best money they’ve spent in their life. The cost of the elder law attorney will be only a small fraction of the savings or money protected.

Q7: This sounds too good to be true. Is it legal and ethical? Will it really work?

A: Yes, this a legal and ethical approach to paying the outrageous costs of long-term care. Much like tax laws, there are incredibly complex rules and regulations that specifically allow for this type of planning. Much like tax attorneys, elder law attorneys have experienced staff members who are well-versed in the complications of VA and Medicaid benefits, and understand what it takes to get approval. This is all we do every day, all day.

If you need to speak to someone right away about your current situation, feel free to call us at 217-726-9200 or email us at info@EdwardsGroupLLC.com. One of our Client Coordinators will be happy to help you. To continue learning more about long-term care planning, click here to watch a short video from Attorney David Edwards on why you need long-term care planning.

What Is a Power of Attorney? Why Might You Need One?

Think of all the decisions you make in a week or a month — how much money you spend, or save, whether you get your car fixed, whether you go to the doctor if you aren’t feeling well. What will happen if you can’t make those decisions for yourself? Someone will have to make them for you.

A power of attorney (POA) helps your family navigate these difficult times. A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone authority to act on your behalf. By using the power of attorney, someone you trust can help carry out your wishes. This person is called an agent, and the power of attorney legally appoints that trustworthy and responsible person you’ve chosen to have the authority to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf.

Your agent will have access to your money and property, so you want to be sure to choose a person who has your best interests in mind. (Click here for a quick test to see if your helper is likely to be a good one.Your POA agent cannot spend your money on themselves, but they do have the authority to spend your money or even sell your house or other property, if that is best for you.

It is important to always keep in mind that a POA can be easily abused. Before you appoint your POA agent, it is a good idea to know what they can and cannot do for you.

To keep learning more about powers of attorney and choosing good helpers for your plan, check out the following articles on our blog:

Power of Attorney FAQ’s

Dangers of a Do-It-Yourself POA

Why You Need a Healthcare POA

Important Advice on Choosing a Healthcare POA

The Secret Test for Your Named Helper

3 Myths About Choosing a Helper for Your Plan

7 Types of Helpers You Need to Watch Out For

What’s the Difference Between a DNR and a POA?