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!

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.

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.

life care planning

2 Types of Help You May Need

Last week we gave you a secret test you could give a named helper (or potential helper) to see if they might be up to the task. But what sorts of things might you need help with? There are generally two categories…

Help With Finances

A recent National Institutes of Health study showed a decrease in decision-making skills between the ages of 56-85. We also know, statistically, that if you reach the age of 65 you will, on average, live 19.2 more years. Therefore, many of us will need help with complicated financial decisions that occur in the last few decades of life.

A Power of Attorney for finances will allow someone to help you pay bills, manage your investments and make financial decisions. This may sound very scary, but we help our clients make good choices about financial POAs on a daily basis. That’s why you see the word “Counselor” in our name.

Help With Healthcare Decisions

As you age, you may want input from others about your healthcare. We all know how complicated the medical care world is to navigate these days.

A Power of Attorney for healthcare will allow someone to help you make decisions about a variety of medical issues:

• Medical treatments – like chemo and radiation if you’re diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, doctors and nurses can’t always be relied upon to recommend the best course of action. It can be extremely helpful to have someone else listening to the options, the pros and cons, and then helping you make sense of the process.

• Surgery – whether it’s really needed or not.

End of life decisions – do you want to be hooked up to machines? Do you want to spend your last days at home if at all possible?

• Where to  live – should I downsize, stay put (age in place) or is there another alternative?

• How to get the best care – marketers are very savvy and they know that seniors are an easy target. It would be very helpful to have someone who can help you weed through all the “flash” of advertisements and get down to the real useful information so you can make informed choices.

• When to sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” order.

Learn more about what exactly helpers do in our post, “12 Duties of a Helper.”

How Edwards Group Can Help

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 guide you through the process of deciding who is best. While you’ll only do this once in your lifetime (maybe twice), we’ve helped hundreds of families since 2008. In that time, our firm has been solely dedicated to estate planning and elder law. We’ve seen A LOT and gained a lot of wisdom from the families we help on a daily basis. We can help you know what to do and what NOT to do.

Give us a call at 217-726-9200 and plan to attend an upcoming workshop today. If you attend one of our workshops, you’ll receive $200 off your initial meeting fee (if you schedule your appointment within 30 days of the workshop). We do this so you’ll know, before spending your hard earned money, if we’re the right firm for you. Attending a workshop makes the planning process easier and more effective.

The greatest threat to an effective estate plan is not taking any action at all, so take your first step today and call us at 217-726-9200.

The Secret Test for Your Named Helper

Naming a helper for your plan is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever have to make, but you don’t have to do it alone. Read on for guidance in choosing your executor, trustee or Power of Attorney.

Be Careful Who You Choose

I heard another heartbreaking story the other day – an older couple, the man has a terminal illness and he’s worried about his wife after he’s gone. (That part’s normal.) The heartbreaking part is he’s worried because his wife can’t say no to their youngest son (and the son has been named executor because he lives so close by), but the son is taking advantage of his mom financially even while the husband is still alive. The husband is wondering, “What on earth will happen after I’m gone, if he’s already caused this much damage with me keeping an eye on her?”

Every plan needs a good helper. We talk it ALL the time because it’s vitally important. Everyone will come to a point in their life where they will need some sort of helper, whether that be a Power of Attorney, a trustee or an executor.

About two years ago we created a paper newsletter with expanded information on choosing good helpers. Even now, we still use it because it’s full of great information. If you’d like a copy of our paper newsletter on choosing good helpers, you can get instant access to it by clicking this link. But if you’d prefer, you can call Tarina at 217-726-9200 and ask her to mail you a copy.

The Secret Test for a Helper

So, what’s the secret test for a named helper? How can you know if you can’t trust a potential helper to make decisions for you when you can’t make decisions yourself?

The secret test of a helper is to look at them and see how they handle their own lives now.

  • Are they organized?
  • Do they have things “under control”?
  • Do they make wise decisions?
  • Are they handling their own money well?
  • Are they generous and kind?

After you’re gone, people will generally handle your money worse than they handle their own. They will generally be more difficult to deal with in serving as your helper than they are in dealing with their own lives. This is just the cold, hard truth that we’ve seen over and over.

Being a helper is stressful (especially since if often happens after a crisis or death), and the stress leads people to act worse than they normally do.

So, however they’re handling things now, they’ll actually do a worse job after you’re gone. Does that give you cause for concern? If so, you should pick a different helper. As you think about someone to be a helper, consider these duties they will possibly help with. And learn more about “7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For” here.

How Edwards Group Can Help

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 guide you through the process of deciding who is best. While you’ll only do this once in your lifetime (maybe twice), we’ve helped hundreds of families in the seven years our firm has been solely dedicated to estate planning and elder law. We’ve seen A LOT and gained a lot of wisdom from the families we help on a daily basis. We can help you know what to do and what NOT to do.

Give us a call at 217-726-9200 and plan to attend an upcoming workshop today. If you attend one of our workshops, you’ll receive $200 off your initial meeting fee (if you schedule your appointment within 30 days of the workshop). We do this so you’ll know, before spending your hard-earned money, if we’re the right firm for you. Attending a workshop makes the planning process easier and more effective.

The greatest threat to an effective estate plan is not taking any action at all, so take your first step today and call us at 217-726-9200.

aging alone

Aging and Alone: 7 Steps to Protect Yourself

In a previous post, we talked about a growing segment of people who are aging alone without the help of their adult children (either because they don’t have children or their children live very far away). These seniors face unique challenges in their 70’s and 80’s. To read about those four challenges, click here. With proper planning, guided by an experienced elder law attorney who has faced these issues many times before, you can achieve peace of mind and have a plan in place if you do not have close family nearby.

7 Steps Every Senior Should Take if Aging Alone

1. Make a plan while you are still sharp (physically and mentally).

A study by the National Institutes of Health found decreased cognition and decision-making impairment begin around the age of 60. Research has also shown that the ability to make sound investment decisions sharply declines at 70. Because of this, it’s important to plan ahead.

2. Make sure your plan is a comprehensive plan and not just a will.

An effective Life Care Plan should include documents like Powers of Attorney (for health and finances), advanced directives for end of life medical issues, etc. It should also address questions such as how will you pay for long-term care, how do you want care decisions to be made, and do you want to stay at home if at all possible?

3. Set up structures to protect yourself.

With the help of an experienced elder law attorney, you should anticipate future issues and how you want them handled. (For instance, if you don’t have kids, consider a professional helper such as an attorney, CPA or bank to handle your finances.)

4. Be open to changing your living arrangements.

If you’re willing to alter your living arrangements earlier on, then you’ll be able to make changes on your own terms, deciding what’s most important to you. If you wait until crisis strikes, others may have to dictate where you go, or your medical issues may dictate where you have to live.

If you start to become isolated in your house, having difficulty taking medicine or eating properly, there needs to be a fail-safe in place so that you don’t suffer and linger too long in the house on your own.

5. Create a plan with ongoing maintenance.

In the last few decades of life things can change rapidly. That’s why a plan with ongoing maintenance is especially helpful. Crafting a flexible plan, through an attorney you trust, insures that adjustments can be made as circumstances change.

6. Gather a list of contacts who can help you.

Identify what tasks you need help with (cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc.) and then match the tasks with people (friends, neighbors, nieces, nephews, church members) who might be able to help you with those specific jobs.

7. Find local resources to help.

There are several good resources that can help seniors, or their distant children, get the help they need.

Illinois Department on Aging     1-800-252-8966

Area Agency on Aging     1-800-252-8966    (Here’s a more detailed listing for Sangamon County)

Senior Services of Central Illinois     217-528-4035

Aging is not something any of us wants to think about, but by thinking and planning ahead, you can save yourself a lot of grief, stress, dignity and money.

If you are facing the prospect of aging alone and are concerned that you don’t have an adequate plan in place, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 217-726-9200. We are always happy to help in anyway that we can!

4 Challenges of Aging Alone

There’s a growing segment of people who are aging without the help of their adult children (either because they don’t have children or because their children live far away). Read on to learn more about the challenges this group faces.

People are living longer than ever before in history. People are having less children. And those children often live out of town or in other states. Because of all these factors, 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 65 are at risk of becoming “elder orphans.”

Many don’t like this term. “I’ve lived just fine on my own nearly all my life!” However, it is a quick and clear way to describe a growing number of people who are getting older without the immediate support of close family. And it is a HUGE challenge – one our firm is seeing more and more often.

4 Challenges of Aging Alone

It used to be that a will was an adequate estate plan for most people, but a will only works after a person’s death. A will cannot help with the challenges that present themselves when a person is in their 70’s and 80’s. And if that person does not have children, or has children halfway across the country, then the challenges of the last two decades of life can make things even harder.

So what are 4 important things to consider if you find yourself in this situation?

1. Who’s gonna be in charge?

Of course, you would like the answer to be yourself, but what happens if you have a stroke, start to experience the signs of dementia or develop cancer? When the time comes (and it will come for the vast majority of people), who will pay your bills for you? Who will help get you to doctor visits or treatments? Who will help you get groceries or cook? Read about choosing good helpers here.

2. Who will even know if you need help?

Oftentimes, we don’t recognize the need for help in our own lives. More often than not, at our firm, it is the adult children who notice that their parents need help. It is nearly impossible to notice a slow decline in your own life without someone else’s perspective.

3. What if you get help from all the wrong places?

Sadly, there are more ways to scam seniors than ever before. Dishonest caregivers have always been able to steal money, change the will, etc. but now there are mail order scams, and tech scams on iPads or via email. It is really hard to know who to trust (read about 7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For here), which brings us to the next challenge…

4. What if you reject good advice because you don’t know who to trust?

While it is really hard to know who to trust, there are still some really good, honest people out there who are passionate about helping seniors. We work with these types of advisors everyday. They are out there, but if you’re on your own, how will you know if you can trust them?

Aging is not something any of us wants to think about, but by thinking and planning ahead, you can save yourself a lot of grief, stress, dignity and money.

If you are facing the prospect of aging alone and are concerned that you don’t have an adequate plan in place, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 217-726-9200. We are always happy to help in anyway that we can!

checkbook

The Checkbook Test: Can your executor or trustee pass it?

Good “helpers” are essential to an effective plan. Could the people you’ve chosen as executor, trustee, power of attorney or guardian pass this simple test?

Every Estate Plan Needs a Good Helper

We talk about good “helpers” a lot, and that’s because they are vitally important to an effective estate plan. Helpers are the people who will carry out your plan when the time comes. They can be known by different names depending on which document names them as a helper. Some helpers are trustees for trusts, some are executors for wills, some are power of attorney for health or finances, and some helpers are guardians for minor children. No matter the title, their job is essentially the same – to make good choices and to act for you when you cannot do it for yourself. (Read more about choosing good helpers here.)

The Checkbook Test

There is a very simple way to gauge whether you have chosen the right person to be one of your “helpers.”

Imagine the person you have chosen (or are considering choosing) as your executor or trustee. Now, imagine giving them your checkbook and letting them pay your bills for a couple months. How does that make you feel? Do you feel nervous? Anxious? If so, you may want to reconsider who you’ve chosen as a helper. 

Read about 7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For here.

So, how can Edwards Group help?

If you’ve been around Edwards Group for any amount of time, we hope that you’ve seen how we approach estate planning differently. One of the things we do differently is by counseling our clients as they make the hard decisions that have to be made when creating an estate plan. We have experience that most people don’t. We do estate planning all day every day, and we’ve done it for nearly a decade now. We can help guide our clients through these hard choices.

If you need help choosing “helpers” for your plan, call us at 217-726-9200 and ask for a copy of our paper newsletter on choosing helpers. We’ll be more than happy to mail you a copy. You can get immediate access to this great resource here.

Download our resource on choosing good helpers HERE.

3 Myths About Choosing a Helper for Your Plan

We’ve talked previously about what a “helper” is and why it’s so important to not only choose one, but choose a good one. Whether it’s as a trustee, executor, power of attorney or guardian, it’s very important that you choose someone who is up to the task.

Here are 3 myths about choosing a helper that you should avoid:

1. “I need to name my oldest child.”

While it is historically conventional to name your oldest child as a “helper” in estate planning, we challenge that convention when it’s not the best choice. If your oldest child is not your most responsible child, or if your oldest child has extenuating circumstances in their life (like a special needs child) that would prevent them from carrying out the duties of a helper, then it is perfectly acceptable to choose a child other than your firstborn.

2. “I should name all of my kids as co-executors.”

In an effort to be “fair,” many people think that naming their kids as co-executors is a good idea. David generally does not recommend this option. Read here to find out why.

3. “My kids will figure things out without me.”

This may seem like the easiest option, but it is generally the worst option for your children. The stress and aftermath of a parent’s death is easily one of the hardest times in life. By leaving all of the hard decisions to your kids, you’re heaping an unbelievable amount of extra stress and pressure on them. Good families are destroyed by bad estate planning. We see it everyday.

So what factors should you consider when choosing a helper? Read this article, Every Estate Plan Needs a Good Helper to find out. Also, check out “12 Duties of a Helper” to learn more about what exactly executors, trustees, guardians and powers of attorney do. And if you need help making this decision, that’s part of our unique approach to planning – we walk our clients through the process, helping them think of every detail. Give us a call today at 217-726-9200 or attend one of our upcoming workshops.

7 Types of “Helpers” You Need to Watch Out For

As you age, or as you complete your estate plan, you’ll need to name different kinds of “helpers” who will carry out your plan when the time comes. These helpers are officially known by different names depending on the job they’re given. They can be known as trustee, executor, power of attorney or guardian, but no matter what their legal name is, their job is to act for you when you can’t act for yourself. This can happen in cases of stroke or other debilitating illnesses as you age, or after a death. It’s very important you choose the right person.

Our founding attorney, David Edwards, has been in the estate planning field for almost two decades now. When you’re that experienced, you start to notice trends. Here are some kinds of helpers David has seen over the years – helpers you may want to avoid if you have any of these “types” in your family:

1. The Do-Nothing – Mom died 2 years ago, but her house is still sitting empty, crumbling. Tax bills and utilities eat up the estate, while the rest of the family waits. He says, “I’ll get to it soon.”

2. The Messy One – In grade school, this person couldn’t find her homework. As a teenager? Clothes piled a foot deep in her bedroom. As an adult? She’s often late to appointments (if she remembers them at all). And finances? Her checkbook has never been balanced, and she gets monthly overdraft notices. Now she’s been named a trustee…

3. The Fighter – His competitive spirit was great while playing sports in high school. But it has not worked out so well with his family or his marriage. Being right is more important than anything else. And now, as a trustee, he gets to decide what’s “right.” There’s no talking to him about it, because it’s his job, and it’s “none of your business how I do it.”

4. The Romantic – “I’m just not ready to sell grandpa’s car or fishing cabin yet.” This trustee lets her emotions get in the way of the job – which is to sell or distribute trust assets. And it’s not just the car and cabin – what about personal property? How do you sort out or (gasp!) even throw stuff away? “It’s just too hard. I can’t do it yet.”

5. The Bossy One – The parents named Junior and Sissy as co-trustees, wanting both of them to have a say and to work together. But big brother is used to being in charge and taking over. He won’t even talk to his sister about what is going on. “If you don’t like it, go get a lawyer… I don’t care if we spend the entire estate on legal fees!” Bossy brother pushes and threatens, leading the more reasonable sister to let him have his way. “It’s just not worth it to try to fight.”

6. The Stress Ball – She’s always running here and there, never any time to sit and talk about the estate. IF you get her on the phone she says, “Sorry. Can’t talk now. Can I call you back?” She means to do her job as trustee, but she can’t find time for the things in her own life, much less this added duty. The family isn’t sure what to do – take legal action or just wait a little longer.

7. The Broke One – His ends never seem to meet, and he’s always in financial crisis. Bill collectors call all the time. Now he’s named as a trustee and gets a checkbook showing a nice balance. It’s easy to rationalize – “I’ll just take some of my inheritance early, to get past this crisis.” But then he needs a little more and a little more. As time passes, the family wonders what has happened to their parents’ money.

So, what types of people make good helpers? Here are some things to consider in naming “helpers.”

We understand that this can be a very daunting task. As always, we are here to help you create an effective estate plan. You don’t have to do it alone. We’ll guide you along every step of the way. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to get started, or attend one of our FREE workshops. We have two to choose from:

If, after attending one of these workshops, you decide to work with us, you’ll receive $200 off your Initial Meeting fee. Call 217-726-9200 to RSVP for an upcoming workshop today.