It is part of an adult child’s responsibility for the well-being of their aging parents. But while this is no doubt a self-fulfilling and rewarding personal service, it does come with different challenges. Taking care of your aging parents will require you to make financial and healthcare decisions, which can affect their overall well-being and living situation.
If you have decided to be a family caregiver for your parents, the pressure doesn’t only come from providing better healthcare or assisting them with their finances. You’d also need to guide in several legal matters. Elders slowly lose their mental capacity to make legal decisions affecting their assets, finances, and even retirement. Discover more about this subject and the legal steps you need to consider when caring for your aging parents.
1. Check your parents’ current assets
The first task on our list is checking your parents’ current assets. These include bank accounts, locations, numbers, and account types, may it be savings, checking, certificate of deposit, or money market. You should also check how these accounts are titled or if there are beneficiary designations or transfer on death designations.
Other assets to confirm are family partnerships, corporate accounts, retirement accounts (401k, ROTH IRA, and more), life insurance policies, and savings bonds. Besides their financial assets, check if they own any real estate and determine how ownership is shared. There are three common ownership types: joint tenants with the right of survivorship, tenants in common, and tenants by the entirety.
2. Collect essential documents
The next step is identifying and gathering all the paperwork needed for both your parents’ financial and healthcare affairs. Having all the documents ready will make it easy for you to make fiscal or medical decisions on behalf of your parents. Ideally, your parents should have a durable power of attorney (POA) for both financial and medical affairs. While it’s not strictly necessary, it’s recommended to have the POA drafted with the help of an attorney. If any of your parents have a serious illness, a living should be prepared as well.
Other legal documents to organize are birth and marriage certificates, citizenship papers, deeds to property and cemetery plots, insurance policies, pension benefits, and a death certificate of a parent or spouse. Key documents like Trust or Will must be up to date. Legal advisors suggest reviewing the papers at least every five years, particularly if there are significant changes in your parents’ or the beneficiaries’ status, wealth, and health.
3. Find the right elder law attorney
Making legal or fiscal decisions for your aging parents can be overwhelming and risky. To ensure that you won’t be making a wrong move in taking care of your parents’ hard-earned assets, seek the help of a credible elder law attorney. They can help you identify the real needs and desires of your aging parents and how you can access their healthcare and tax benefits. An elder law attorney can also assist you in making estate planning decisions.
If your parents don’t have any of these yet, the lawyer can also help in the creation. They can also help maintain and update your parents’ plan to ensure it still meets their current wishes, may it be for healthcare or retirement. Such lawyers can help you in protecting your parents’ assets and planning their future care needs. Only hire an experienced elder law attorney. You can ask for recommendations from people you know or do your own search and background checking.
4. Understand the risks involved
If you’re planning to be your parents’ very own caregiver and decision-maker, you need to be aware of the risks involved. Legal planning is a delicate job, which is why it’s recommended to hire a lawyer for assistance. But for those who cannot afford a lawyer, legal troubles can be bigger. You can expect issues with the power of attorney, expensive guardianship proceedings, and the possibility of fraudulent activities.
Depending on your family’s situation, you may also encounter problems in decision-making, responsibility distribution, and senior care payments. The worst part is, these issues can lead to family disputes. If you have siblings and close relatives involved in caring for your aging parents, devote time to talk to each other and make decisions together.
Whether it be for your parents’ properties, money, or medical needs, taking the right legal action must be guaranteed. If you’re having trouble understanding these legal tips and the processes involved, we highly recommend seeking professional guidance. Trying to figure out and do everything on your own may just put you and your family in grave legal and financial crises.