As our parents age, many legal issues come into play. Parents want to be able to stay independent and care for themselves…without having to be placed under guardianship.
Sometimes that independence is not always possible, especially in the case of debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s. There are also healthcare and end-of-life decisions to deal with, often made more complicated because as children, we may be faced with caring for our parents.
All of these things can cause stress for all parties involved, from both an emotional and legal standpoint. Side effects can include friction and even elder abuse (physical, financial). The good news is that there are many things children and parents can legally do in advance so that the path remains smooth as aging occurs.
First, talk to your parent. Be proactive and protect their interests by asking what their wishes are regarding assets and care needs. For example, depending on your parent’s assets, you may need to consider Medicaid. Some assets may be transferrable today (and only so much is allowed per year), even though your parent is not eligible for Medicaid for at least five years. With advanced planning, expenses like funerals can be paid for out of a parent’s personal assets while they are living and mentally stable.
Another possibility—though a last resort—is guardianship. There is sometimes a question of mental capacity, and the issue of who will manage your parent’s financial affairs, medical decisions, healthcare, assets and other matters is critical. A probate judge is the only person who can declare a person legally incapacitated. It is important to consult an attorney on issues of this nature; if everything is set up to your parent’s wishes, you can head potential negative situations off at the pass.
Our firm can help you navigate Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Estate Planning and other decisions that are critical for protecting your parents and those who may one day take care of them.