Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Have These Documents Prepared for a Child Headed to College

MP900446487“There are documents pertaining to health, money, and college records, that your child can sign to give you some peace of mind. Not all of these are required, but you may want to consider if you need them or not.”

There’s no end to what parents and grandparents can worry about, when their child or grandchild heads off to college. Will they make the right decisions, choose good friends and perform well in their studies? One thing you can do to help prepare your college-bound student, is to have certain legal documents prepared before they go, advises getintocollege.com in the article “Legal Documents Your Child Needs to Sign Before Heading to College.”

Once your child turns 18, your access to their medical records ends, unless they complete a form called a HIPAA Authorization. Your child must sign the form to give you access to their records, appointments, test results, etc. If your child is going to a school out of state, you may need a state-specific form. Keep these documents in a safe place, where you can access them quickly, in case of an emergency.

Chances are your student is heading off to college with a debit card and a credit card.  However, do you have access to those accounts? Talk with your estate planning attorney about creating a Financial Power of Attorney form, so you don’t run into any roadblocks, if your child needs help handling their finances. Opening a bank account or having a credit card attached to your account makes it easier for you to transfer money to your student. It also makes it easier for you to keep a watchful eye on their spending. Make a copy of the front and back of all cards so you can easily report them if lost or stolen.

Colleges have a form known as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), which you usually can obtain at some point during orientation. This is a document that gives you the legal right to your child’s academic and financial information through the college. Think of this as the college’s HIPAA law. It’s not the same, but it can create the same level of obstruction, if you do not address it in advance. With it in place, you’ll be able to discuss their finances with the bursar’s office, their grades with their academic advisor and many other offices in the college that will otherwise refuse to speak with you.

College is a transition time for both students and parents, as well grandparents. Having these documents properly prepared, with the help of an estate planning attorney, will give you some peace of mind, as your child leaves the nest.

Reference: getintocollege.com (March 29, 2018) “Legal Documents Your Child Needs to Sign Before Heading to College.”

 

 

Planning for Accident or Illness

MP900314367It is impossible to know whether you will ever have an accident or have an illness that will leave you incapacitated.  However, you can easily plan for dealing with it should it happen.

Most people generally understand that the older they get, the more likely they are to suffer from cognitive decline because of Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. As people get older, they often begin to prepare for what will happen if their time comes and they become incapacitated.

What people do not think about is that elder dementia is not the only way people can become incapacitated. There are no age requirements for disabling accidents or illnesses. Everyone, no matter their age, should plan for what would happen if they are incapacitated. It is not difficult to do, as TC Palm discusses in "Be as prepared as you can by planning for incapacity."

To get started, schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney. The attorney can prepare the necessary documents for incapacity.

You will need a general durable power of attorney, so someone else has the authority to handle your day-to-day finances. A health care power of attorney will allow someone else to make your health care decisions. A living will lets you decide ahead of time what medical means can be taken to prolong your life.

Consider taking another step at the attorney’s office and get an estate plan, just in case an accident or illness does more than incapacitate you.  A thorough estate plan prepares you and your loved ones for illness and death.

Reference: TC Palm (Feb. 20, 2018) "Be as prepared as you can by planning for incapacity."

 

Going to North Korea

MP900422593[1]The State Department suggests that you get an estate plan, should you decide to visit North Korea.

Despite the extremely tense relations between the U.S. and North Korea, it is possible for Americans to visit North Korea. There are probably very few U.S. citizens who want to go anywhere near North Korea. Those that do, are probably journalists and researchers.

The State Department recently offered some advice for Americans who are planning a trip to North Korea.

So, what is that advice?

The agency advises people to first get a will, make funeral plans and get a power attorney, as Fox News reports in "Visiting North Korea? Draft a will and make funeral plans, State Department says."

Traveling to countries other than North Korea is likely not nearly as dangerous.  However, this is good advice before traveling to any foreign nation.

Before leaving on an overseas trip, it is a good idea to have an estate plan in place.

Having powers of attorney drafted is an especially good idea, in case anything does happen, so someone back home can handle all of your affairs.

It is unlikely anything will happen to you on your next vacation, but it is always good to be prepared.

Before you visit a foreign country, visit with an estate planning attorney so you can be prepared.

Reference: Fox News (Jan. 15, 2018) "Visiting North Korea? Draft a will and make funeral plans, State Department says."

 

Dementia Rate Declining

Happy-old-couple[1]A survey reveals the overall rate of dementia in the U.S. is declining, but the reasons are not clear.

It has long been expected that as more and more Americans lived into older age and continued to suffer from obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol, the percentage of the population with dementia would increase. Some very small surveys found the opposite was occurring, but they could be discounted because they were not undertaken with representative samples.

However, a new large and representative survey backs them up.

Researchers have found that the rate of dementia among the U.S. population has declined by 12% in the last 24 years, as the New York Times reported in "U.S. Dementia Rates Are Dropping Even as Population Ages."

While this is good news, the reasons for the decline are not known.

There is some evidence to suggest that people are seeking treatment for diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure more often which has contributed to the decline in dementia. Other evidence suggests that increasing overall educational levels in the U.S. have been a contributing factor. However, that might be nothing more than a correlation.

If researchers can figure out why the rate of dementia is in decline, it will help them to understand the disease and to develop preventative measures.

Of course, despite the decline in the rate as the population continues to age, the total number of people in the country with dementia is actually increasing. It would be a bad idea to assume you will not eventually suffer from it and neglect to get powers of attorney drawn up, just in case.

Reference: New York Times (Nov. 21, 2016) "U.S. Dementia Rates Are Dropping Even as Population Ages."

 

Family Squabbles Can Hurt Elderly Parents

Bigstock-Senior-Couple-8161132[1]When an elderly parent is approaching the end of life, the ability of the family to come together and agree on treatment and care is vital to ease the parent's suffering.

The last thing that most end of life patients want to deal with, is a family feud over the patient’s medical treatment and care. However, these family feuds are a common occurrence, especially when family members have other, pre-existing disagreements.

This was the subject of a recent article in the Washington Post titled "A united family can make all the difference when someone is dying."

Doctors have a name for one of the common problems that can arise. They call it the "Daughter from California syndrome." This can happen when family members compete with each other over who cares for the elderly patient the most. Often, someone who lives far away goes too far and is the source of disruptions.

Another source of problems for families is when the person who the patient put in charge of things goes too far and refuses to cooperate with others. For example, someone given authority in a health care power of attorney may refuse to listen to the opinions of other family members. This can create unnecessary tension, especially when decisions have to be made that are outside the scope of any advanced directives.

The best thing that a family can do to help an elderly patient at the end of life is to work together, communicate freely and come to consensus decisions concerning treatment and care. The patient can help this greatly, if he or she has previously executed detailed advanced directives that designate appropriate people to be in charge.

Reference: Washington Post (Nov. 20, 2016) "A united family can make all the difference when someone is dying."

 

What Is Your Estate Planning Attorney Talking About?


Bigstock-Financial-consultant-presents--14508974[1]Estate Planning Attorneys talk about a lot of different legal documents. You need to know what those documents are.

When you visit with an estate planning attorney, the attorney is likely to mention the names of several different legal documents. If you want to understand what the attorney is talking about, then you will need to know what those documents are.

Most attorneys would be happy for you to ask if you do not know. Answering questions is what the attorney is there for. However, if you are not comfortable asking basic questions, then you should learn some basics beforehand.

Recently, the Ventura County Star published a list of basic estate planning documents and what they do in "Get to know estate planning documents." The list includes:

  • Advance Directive – Tells doctors and other health care professionals what procedures not to perform if you are terminally ill and have no chance of recovery.
  • Asset Inventory – A list of all of your assets to let your estate executor know what you have after you pass away.
  • Beneficiary designations – Life insurance, retirement accounts, and other financial accounts you designate to go to a specific person after you pass away.
  • Power of Attorney – Allows for someone else to handle your finances if you are incapacitated.
  • Power of Attorney for health care – Allows for someone else to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated.
  • Record of Locations – A list of where your heirs can find all the important financial and legal documents after you pass away.
  • Trust agreement – A method of passing assets to others while having those assets maintained by a third person.
  • Will – The most common estate planning document that says how assets should be distributed after you pass away via probate.

A qualified estate planning attorney can help you decide the best legal documents to use for your unique circumstances.

Reference: Ventura County Star (Sept. 17, 2016) "Get to know estate planning documents."

 

Estate Planning Documents You Need

Bigstock-Attractive-Mixed-Race-Couple-P-9992345[1]Everyone needs an estate plan, and every estate plan will contain a mix of different documents depending on the complexity of the estate assets and individual preferences. However, there are a few documents that everyone needs.

Estate plans come in all shapes and sizes. Some are extraordinarily complex and contain thousands of pages of legal documents. Other estate plans contain only a few basic documents. One of the interesting things about estate plans is the documents that make up the simplest estate plans are also part of the most advanced plans. These documents are the basic framework of estate plans. The Chicago Tribune recently discussed what these basic documents are in “Documents you need before you die or become incapacitated.” They include:

  • Will – At its core a will is simply a legal document that declares how a deceased person’s property that is not disposed of by any other legal means should be handled.
  • General Durable Power of Attorney – A standard document that allows a person to determine who should handle his or her finances in case of incapacity.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney – Similar to the other power of attorney, but it allows for someone else to make medical decisions for an incapacitated person.
  • Living Will – Gives prior instructions to medical personnel about what means should be used to prolong a person’s life in the event that the person is terminally ill with no chance of recovery and unable to give instructions at the time.

Meet with an estate planning attorney at Profit Law Firm, PLLC to determine what additional documents you may need.

Reference: Chicago Tribune (July 25, 2016) “Documents you need before you die or become incapacitated