Estate Planning When You’re Ill or Dealing with Health Challenges Related to Old Age
Serious health diagnoses can impact your life in huge ways and may bring concerns you haven’t thought of up to the forefront. One of those concerns, which is often pushed off when everything is going well, is estate planning and/or elder law planning. You’ll want to know that your family is taken care of if the worst happens or that you’ll be able to remain in control and independent for as long as possible. Creating an estate or elder law plan is the best method for making sure your wishes are known and your loved ones are cared for. But what do you need in order to have an effective plan when you’re ill? Every situation is different, but these are the basic documents you may need:
Living Will and Health Care Agent Designation
A living will allows healthcare professionals to know your wishes regarding your medical care, specifically what kind of life-saving measures (if any) you’d like taken if you’re facing a serious illness. The healthcare agent designation names a person or people to act on your behalf regarding any medical issues if you’re incapacitated and cannot make or communicate decisions for yourself. Your attorney can review these health care directives with you to determine what will be best for you, taking into account your medical issues and your family situation.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney allows someone of your choosing to make financial decisions for you if you’re incapacitated, or if you feel you need extra help handling financial matters. This document can be necessary if you’re facing a long rehab or recovery period and can be designed in such a way that it only grants temporary power to your financial representative – once again, depending on what type of medical situation you’re facing. Too often I see powers of attorney that lack specific language necessary to protect assets from nursing home costs.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament allows you to plan out the distributions from your estate to your loved ones after you’ve passed. If you’re facing a serious medical illness, it may be a good time to re-examine an existing last will and testament to ensure that it still conforms to your wishes. But everyone needs more than just a will, so don’t stop there.
Many people who are ill or declining as a result of age choose to transfer their assets into a living trust. The trust creator, or grantor, can appoint a trustee or co-trustees who can help manage the assets in the trust for the senior or individual without the trustee gaining ownership of the accounts in question. A trust also allows someone to pass their assets down to loved ones in a safe and controlled manner, such as stipulating that heirs cannot receive their inheritance until they turn 25, reach a certain milestone, etc.
Again, you can speak to an estate and elder law attorney to determine if there are other documents that may help strengthen your estate plan, such as a living trust, and also make sure that your beneficiary designations on bank accounts, retirement accounts, and insurance policies are all up to date.
If you would like to learn more about estate planning, or if you’d like to discuss your existing estate plan or create a new plan, please set up an appointment at our law firm by calling (336) 378-1122.