The Unexpected Costs of Caring for Elderly Parents In Your Home

Multi-generational households are becoming the new (or maybe it’s really old) in vogue way to handle the care of aging parents. And we’re all for it so long as you consider the implications and set your family up for success.

With Mom or Dad moving in, you can anticipate some extra expenses, not just financially, but possibly emotionally as well. But it’s hard to know what to expect, and you might face costs you didn’t see coming. Having an elderly parent move in with you is a major life event that requires financial and emotional preparation. Here are some unexpected costs of caring for elderly parents to get you thinking about what lies ahead, if you decide to move mom or dad into your home.

Remodeling

Many people don’t think about the modifications they might need to make to their home to welcome an elderly parent. If your parent is living with you long-term, you will want to make him or her comfortable, which might entail adding a new addition to your home, creating a private living space out of a shared area, making accommodations for single-level living if your parent cannot navigate the stairs, or adding mobility adaptations such as a walk-in bath or chair lifts.

Lost Work Productivity

Moving your elderly parent in, helping him or her get acquainted with the area, and checking out activities can all eat into your work week. Expect further loss of productivity if you have to take your parent to run errands, to medical appointments, or to therapy sessions. You can look into senior transportation services if you are unable to take time off from work, but remember to budget for the extra expense.

Home Help

In-home care can be a significant expense, but unless you are able to take time away from your busy day, your elderly parent might need it. Long-term care insurance will sometimes cover some or all of the costs, and you might be able to get assistance from certain programs through the VA or other community organizations.

Miscellaneous Household Expenses

The costs of simply having another household member can be unexpectedly high, especially if that member spends most of his or her day at home. You should expect such extra expenses as increased heat and electricity bills, special foods, and personal care products. Remember that elderly parents have special needs, and those needs can be expensive.

Medical Expenses

Even with insurance, your parent might have steep out of pocket costs for co-pays, prescriptions, mobility aids, supplements, vitamins, and other uninsured medical expenses. For certain conditions, these costs can quickly add up.

Long-Term Expenses

As your parent ages, his or her needs will change, too. These changing needs can result in unexpected long-term costs. When your parent’s retirement funds are exhausted or when they face deteriorating health, you might have to consider the staggering costs of long-term care in an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Therapy

Moving mom or dad into your home could bring up all of the unresolved emotional issues that have not yet been addressed within your family dynamic. This isn’t something to be afraid of, so long as you have the right support. On the contrary, it can be a great opportunity to heal inter-generational wounds that would otherwise get passed on to you and your children and their children.

Caring for an elderly parent can result in unexpected expenses and unexpected benefits, as well. Now that they have become dependent on you, you might also need to consider making changes to your insurance policies or revising your estate plan. If you are ready to take the step of officially becoming caregiver for mom or dad, meet with us for guidance.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you prepare for the unexpected costs (and reap all the benefits) of caring for an elderly parent. We begin all planning with a Family Wealth Planning Session to get to know you, what’s important to you, and to support you to make the most informed, educated and empowered decisions possible for yourself and the people you love. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what’s most important to you, and what you can do to ensure your entire family is taken care of.

 This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Estate Attorney. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

Your Rights as the Parent of a Young Adult – What You Need to Know When a Medical Crisis Hits

As a parent, you are most likely quite accustomed to managing the legal and medical affairs of your children, as circumstances require. If your child requires urgent medical attention while away from you, a simple phone call authorizing care usually can do the trick. But what happens when those “children” turn 18, and are now adults in the eyes of the law, and need of urgent medical attention far from home?

The simple fact is that the day your child turns 18, he or she becomes an adult, and have the legal rights of an adult. What this means for you is that you lose your prior held rights to make medical and financial decisions for your child, unless your child executes legal documents giving you those rights back. Without the proper legal documents in place, accessing medical information, and even being informed about your adult child’s medical condition can be difficult and in some cases, impossible.

When sending kids off to college, it is important to consider the legal implications an accident or medical emergency might have on your ability to stay informed and participate in important decision making for your young adult child. Medical professionals have a responsibility to follow the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which ensures medical privacy protection for all adults. Once your child turns 18, they are (from a legal perspective)no more attached to you than a stranger, making communication about medical issues tricky if your child is incapacitated and not able to grant permission on their own.

In most states, there are three legal documents which can make all the difference when a medical crisis strikes and your young adult child is far from home. When utilized together, they can ensure a parent or trusted adult be kept in the loop about care and treatment when a child over the age of 18 experiences a medical event while they are away at college, traveling, or living far from home. As with most legal documents, the law varies from state to state, so be sure to seek out the counsel of your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine which forms suit your situation best.

HIPAA – Essentially like a permission slip, this authorization allows your adult child to specify who is allowed access to their personal medical information. Specific information can be specifically withheld, such as drug use, sexual activity, and mental health issues can so that additional privacy can be protected if desired.

Medical power of attorney – Designates an agent to make medical decisions for the young adult. This could be you, as the parent or another trusted adult. Each state has different laws governing medical power of attorney, thereby requiring different forms. Be sure to check with your Personal Family Lawyer® to be sure you are following the laws of your state, as well as the state in which your child resides.

Durable financial power of attorney – Allows the parent or another trusted adult to take care of personal business in the event the adult child is unable to do so. This form would allow the parent to take care of such important tasks such as signing tax returns, paying bills, and accessing bank accounts for the incapacitated adult child. A durable power of attorney is indeed powerful and gives broad access to sensitive financial and legal decision making and should only be given to a trusted relative or friend.

The milestones come quickly once children graduate from high school and enter into the big, wide world away from home. As your family navigates these significant rites of passage, be sure to consult us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine the steps necessary to ensure excellent communication and peace of mind when a medical emergency arises. Consider including your young adult children in the process. We’re here to help your family establish the legal and medical protections you all need to live the lives you desire.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Esq. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

Commit to Your Estate Plan Before Committing to a Trip Away

If you are planning a vacation, you probably have a lot to prepare for before you get away. Between structuring your itinerary, getting plane tickets or train reservations, and booking hotels, creating an estate plan is probably not something you thought to add to your to-do list. But, think again and consider that now is the time to take action on this vital piece of your legal life planning.

If something were to happen to you while away on vacation, whether an illness, injury or even death, your family would be stuck with a huge mess to clean up.

The Barber family of Southern California is an unfortunate example. Mom, dad and three kids went on a roadtrip to Arizona where they were in a terrible accident. Mom and dad died, and their three boys were injured, but alive.

It took the authorities a couple of days to locate any relatives, during which time the boys were in the protective custody of strangers. A fate no parent ever wants for their children in a time of tragedy, fear and grief.

The family member that was located first was a sister of the mom and she promptly took the boys back to her home and didn’t let any other family members see the boys.

It took many hundreds of thousands of dollars and at least 7 lawyers to sort out the family fighting that ensued over both the boys and the assets left behind by the Barber parents.

And it all could have been easily avoided with a small amount of planning in advance.

Making the commitment now to create a comprehensive estate plan will ensure your loved ones will not be stuck in court or conflict, if the unexpected happens while you are on vacation.

At least 8 weeks before you leave, schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session with us. During that Session, we’ll get you more financially organized than you’ve ever been before (ensuring none of your assets are lost if you are injured on your vacation) and guide you to make informed, empowered and educated choices for yourself and the people you love most. If you are leaving sooner than 8 weeks from now, call our office and let us know you need a rush Family Wealth Planning Session and we will see what we can do to get you started.

Whatever you do, do not just think a standard set of estate planning documents will serve you or your family. What you and your family need is a plan that properly addresses the care of your children (if you have minors at home), your assets and the parts of your life that go beyond just the money. We can explain more during the Family Wealth Planning Session.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session!

Recently Divorced? Here’s Why You Should Put Aside Your Differences Come Tax Season

Divorce can wreak havoc on your finances. But what many divorced couples don’t realize is that they can expect to face recurring financial challenges during tax season for years after the divorce is finalized. While divorce is often adversarial, leaving both spouses with animosity in its wake, tax season is an opportune time to put aside those differences and cooperate to reach a mutually beneficial outcome.

Filing taxes in the midst and even after divorce can be complicated. Even after a divorce, many couples retain financial ties in the form of ongoing support, shared assets, lingering retirement plan divisions, and tax breaks, all of which can significantly affect tax liability. You can avoid another bitter battle by sitting down with your ex-spouse—and ideally a trusted lawyer—to discuss a few key issues.

Will You File Jointly or Individually?

Couples in the midst of a divorce can file “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.” Each filing status has its pros and cons, so you should only make this decision after consulting with a lawyer and a tax advisor.

Couples with a divorce finalized before the New Year have to file separately, so consider delaying the finalization of your divorce until after December 31st if you’d like to reap the benefits of filing as a married couple.

Whatever you do, don’t wait until tax season to decide how to file, and don’t decide without consulting with your spouse. Coordinating your filing status can be advantageous to both parties if you plan ahead.

Who Claims the Children?

This is another important issue worth determining before tax season. Typically, the divorce judgment will include a stipulation on who gets to claim the children and the associated credits or deductions. Many couples choose to take turns by alternating years or each claiming one (or more) child individually . But if you don’t already have this determined in a court order, you might need help determining which parent has the most to gain one way or the other. In general, primary custodial parents have the right to claim the children, however in the case of shared custody, that right can fall in either direction. Likewise, divorcing couples that are filing separately will need to make this decision, but it is best first to figure out whom the claim will benefit the most before you decide.

How Will You Handle Dividing Your Assets?

Not all types of property divisions are tax friendly. Make sure you consult with a lawyer before you put your property division in writing to ensure the spouse who receives the assets is not met with an undue tax burden come tax season. This is more of concern for couples in the midst of a divorce, but divorced couples can run into issues about jointly held assets (such as the family home), too. And failing to include a stipulation regarding jointly owned assets in the judgment can create trouble.

The spouse who retains residence of the family home doesn’t necessarily get to claim all the tax benefits, especially if he or she is not financially responsible for the home. Cooperation is essential in this matter. The division of retirement accounts can also affect your taxes. Make sure you file a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to divide plans without penalty. Liquidating the accounts to divide them will result in penalties and a higher tax liability.

How Will You Characterize Support?

Orders for alimony (also called spousal support or spousal maintenance) and child support are common in many divorces. Child support has no bearing on tax liability and cannot be deducted. Alimony, however, is a little more flexible. Alimony is typically taxed as income to the receiving spouse and a deduction for the paying spouse, but the wording in your judgment can affect this. Work with a lawyer before you finalize your divorce to ensure your alimony order will be mutually beneficial to you and your spouse.

If you’re divorced and need financial guidance, consider sitting down with us. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you strategize your tax filing for maximum benefit this tax season.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, esq. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

What Is Elder Abuse and How Can You Keep Yourself (or Your Parents) Safe?

One day, you will be an elderly person, you hope. Maybe you are already there. Or, your parents are.

And, unfortunately, as more of us age, there is more and more cases of elder abuse, and in order to stop it, we must first spot it and understand the totality of the problem.

Physical abuse is obvious. Signs of physical abuse include bruises, broken bones, and scrapes, often resulting from sexual abuse, hitting, pushing, and restraining.

Physical abuse also includes dispensing medicine that affects a person’s ability or desire to function properly. For example, administering additional pain or sleeping medication may lead an elder to be bedridden when they would otherwise be active and mobile.

Emotional abuse takes a heavy toll on a victim, but especially the extra vulnerable, such as seniors. Emotional abuse includes insults, threats, and screaming. It can also include isolating someone from others, interfering with their access to friends and family members. These behaviors are demeaning and can lead victims to withdraw, become angry, or suffer other types of personality changes.

Financial abuse is most often hidden, and the one that you (and your parents could be most at risk from).

Financial abuse encompasses taking advantage of, as well as stealing from, seniors. And, surprisingly, often occurs when seniors get trapped in a Court system with unscrupulous lawyers, guardians and conservators. You can read story after story of the heinous crimes being committed by our very own court system against our elderly community, starting here.

You might think it can’t happen to you, or your parents, and yet when you read the actual stories, you begin to realize that it could. Without trusted legal counsel on your side, even the “right documents” sometimes aren’t enough.

If you would like to ensure you have trusted counsel on your side to keep you and your family out of Court and outside of risk of elder abuse from our own Court system, start by having a Family Wealth Planning Session with our office. We’ll look at what you own, who you love, and how to ensure you are more financially organized and empowered than you ever have been before to keep yourself and the people you love out of court and out of conflict.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers,  Personal Family Lawyer,® who develops trusting relationships with families for life.  That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk because this planning is so important.

Legal Rights of Grandparents: In Honor of National Grandparents Day

When all is ideal in a family, the bond between grandparent and child is a special one. Maybe you’ve even heard that grandparenting is the grand reward for parenting.

But what happens when the grandparent becomes the parent? Or when parents’ divorce or one parent dies and a grandparents’ visitation rights are taken away?

This is happening more and more often, and it’s an issue you’ll want to be aware of, if your child has a close relationship with your parents, or if you are a grandparent who wants to maintain relationship with your grandkids no matter what, or if you do not have a relationship with your parents and want to ensure that your child doesn’t either, if something happens to you.

Let’s begin with the first scenario: your child has a close relationship with your parents, that you want to maintain, no matter what happens to you. In that case, you must put in writing your nomination of your parents as the legal guardians of your child or children. Otherwise, if something were to happen to you, they could lose custody and even visitation rights.

This is especially a risk if you are a divorced parent. If you were to die, and your child’s other parent or other grandparents were to fight or attempt to deny your parents’ visitation, your known and documented wishes that your parents maintain a relationship with your child could be pivotal.

If you are a grandparent reading this, make sure your child has legally named guardians for your grandchild so that you do not have to suffer through a protracted court battle, created because your child didn’t take a simple action to legally document his or her choices now.

In the event that you know you would never want your parents raising your child, it’s just as critical for you to name legal guardians. Quite often, if both parents have become unable to care for their child, due to death or incapacity, grandparents would be the first option the Court system would look to as caregivers for the child.

But, maybe you would choose someone else, or perhaps you would even want there to be restrictions on the care or visitation of your child by your parents. In that case, you must legally document your choices. You may even want to create a confidential exclusion of guardianship, which we prepare as part of a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan® for your family.

Finally, if you are a grandparent who has already become a primary caretaker for your grandchild, you will want to take the steps of naming legal guardians for the child or children in your care, in case anything happens to you.

This National Grandparent’s Day, make grandparenting a priority in your family. When you call and schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session to get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and provide for the care of your children, if anything happens to you, not only will we waive our Family Wealth Planning Session fee, but we will also create a no-charge health care directive for the grandparent in your family, or you if you are the grandparent.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer,®  who develops trusting relationships with families for life. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ where we can help identify the best strategies for you and your family. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk because this planning is so important.

The Talk You Need to Have With Your Parents

When you were a kid, your parents dreaded the talk they had to have with you.  You know the one.  Well, now that you are an adult, there’s a talk you need to have with your parents that is likely to be just as squirm-worthy – which is why so many of us put it off.

It’s about money.  Specifically, your parent’s money.  The money that may become yours one day. Or may not.

Whether you or your parents think it’s none of your business, it is.  You are most likely the one(s) who will need to deal with all the financial issues your parents leave behind when they become incapacitated or after they die.

Not knowing anything about their finances will place you at an immediate disadvantage, making what will be a hard job almost impossible.

So how do you get the conversation started?  Here are some tips from a recent New York Times column on the subject:

Think about what you need to know.  You need to know more than where to find the will, you need to know if parents have executed powers of attorney, advance health care directives or a trust as well.  You need to know if they have life insurance or other assets and, if so, where the policy is located.  You need to know if they keep a list of all their debts and, if they bank and pay bills online, you need their log-in information for each account.

Bring in a support team.  Your parents may feel more comfortable discussing financial issues with their attorney or financial planner present to facilitate the conversation. They may also feel more comfortable talking with all their children at once, or to only one – take family dynamics into consideration.  And call us in at the beginning of the process.  We can help ease the way tremendously.

Make a plan.  Chances are you will need immediate access to cash in order to pay expenses related to a parent’s passing.  Since probate can be a lengthy process, you may want to plan for this eventuality by having parents establish a revocable living trust, which allows assets to pass outside probate.

Document storage.  Be sure your parents do NOT store their important documents in a bank safe deposit box because getting at them could require you to obtain a court order.  Use a strongbox or safe that is kept in the home instead. Or make sure you are a signer (and there are back-ups besides you) on the safe deposit box.

If you would like to have a talk about estate planning for your family, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.