11 Jan The Crisis of Caregiving: A Legal Checklist
If you’re paying attention, you’re aware that the subject of caregiving is coming up a lot more frequently in the news and in conversations with friends and colleagues. The AARP is devoting one of its monthly newsletter to a variety of topics related to caring for America’s aging family members. Two years of Covid have made the situation worse. While we don’t hear enough about it, many Covid survivors are left with conditions as severe and varied as organ failure, brain fog, memory loss, fatigue, loss of smell and taste, etc. Many people are no longer able to return to their pre-Covid lives or employment. It’s their family members who are left coping with their care.
If you’re a caregiver, part of your job may be to keep track of your loved one’s legal matters.
1. Creating a Living Trust
A Living Trust is the legal document that outlines the way in which your assets will pass on to your loved ones when you die. Our Living Trust package also includes a Will, a Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive. These legal documents will allow an appointed person to make medical or financial decisions for those who are incapacitated or no longer able to make these decisions for themselves. A loved one needs to create these documents when he or she is still capable of making legal decisions. With the diagnosis of dementia on the rise, testamentary capacity— a person’s legal and mental ability to make or alter a valid legal document—has become a growing concern.
2. Make a family plan; share caregiving responsibilities
Not surprisingly, two out of every three caregivers in the United States are women. Somehow they’re getting it done–holding down full-time jobs, taking care of the home, raising their kids and providing regular support for family members with chronic illnesses or disabilities.
When possible, share caregiving responsibilities. One of my colleagues is part of a large family that’s sharing the care of their elderly family members. Both children and grandchildren take turns with doctor visits, pharmacy runs, shopping, etc. They created a schedule and documented it for accountability. For one grandparent whose vision is failing, her young granddaughter comes over every Saturday to make breakfast and read to her grandmother—a date they both look forward to.
3. Organize important papers
Most people don’t realize how many legal documents they already have, or how many they will need for matters that arise.
Important documents include:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce decree
- Citizenship papers
- Death certificate of a spouse or parent
- Power(s) of attorney
- Deeds to property
- Deeds to cemetery plots
- Military discharge papers
- Insurance policies
- Pension benefits
- Miscellaneous financial documents—to banking, savings accounts and brokerage accounts
4. Explore potential financial help
Investigate public benefits:
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Veterans benefits
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps)
- Medicare and Medicaid
- Online tools like AARP Foundation’s Local Assistance Directory and the National Council on Aging’s Benefits
Long-term care insurance
Examine your loved one’s insurance and retirement plans, including (where applicable) life insurance, disability coverage, pension benefits, long-term care insurance and workplace health insurance. See whether any of them covers home-health visits, skilled nursing, mental health services, or physical therapy and other short-term assistance.
To think about: Consider buying long-term care insurance before you need it. It’s inexpensive while you’re still young and healthy.
Family and Medical Leave Act
If you need to take a leave of absence from your job to care for a loved one, you may be entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Some employers offer paid family leave, and California has implemented laws mandating paid leave for caregiving.
5. Look for tax breaks and life insurance deals
Your family member may be able to claim federal tax deductions for health-care costs, including a hospital bed or wheelchair and out-of-pocket expenses not covered by health insurance. Benefits also may include remodeling the home to make it accessible and hiring a part-time home-health aide. Your loved one also may have a life insurance policy that makes accelerated death payments to help pay for long-term care.
6. Think beyond your loved one: The surviving spouse
You may also need to manage benefits of the surviving spouse. That person may be the beneficiary of an IRA, bank account, life insurance policy and/or pension benefits. There may also be a plan and money set aside to care for a pet.
A Living Trust provides peace of mind
A Living Trust is a legal document that contains instructions for what you want to happen to your assets when you die. For my family, it meant that when my parents died, all of their affairs were in order, they had transferred all of their assets into the Living Trust and identified their heirs. Without a Living Trust, their estate would have gone into Probate and my brother and I would have been dealing with this long, expensive process—even while mourning the death of our parents.
Guideway is proud of our comprehensive Living Trust package that includes a Power of Attorney and Advanced Healthcare Directive. Best of all, we guide you through it and we prepare the legal documents. Schedule an appointment with Guideway today.
Guideway services the entire Bay Area
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