Elder law attorneys in Atlanta Georgia very often find themselves advising adult children of the elderly on the intricacies of managing their parents’ finances. While it may seem straightforward at first, there are a lot of details and difficulties that can get in the way. There are so many things to coordinate, and often the parent is less than helpful in the process. Being somewhat prepared and having access to an experienced elder law or estate lawyer in Atlanta are two of the ways you can help avoid some of the more common pitfalls, such as:
- Memory Loss – Memory loss is prevalent among the elderly, and it’s actually one of the big reasons that adult children are called in to take over finances. Unfortunately, it also makes the job that much more difficult because the parent isn’t able to answer important questions such as “How much do you owe?” or “When is this bill due?”
- Role Reversal – For the majority of the adult child’s life, the parent has been in charge. Taking over and being firm with the parent can be more than a little uncomfortable. On top of that, it can be frustrating and cause resentment to see the person who taught you so much no longer following their own advice.
- Lack of Information – Your parent may have chosen to be forthcoming about finances with an elder law lawyer here in Atlanta, but that doesn’t mean that they want to let their children in on all the financial details of their life. Previous generations found it improper to discuss money, resulting in an air of secrecy that can be difficult to break through.
So, how should you deal with these obstacles?
As with so many other aspects of life, the best way to deal with problems is to avoid them altogether. The earlier you and your parent start meeting with an Atlanta elder law attorney that you trust, the more likely you are to get the information you need. As an added bonus, your parent will have the ability to make his or her wishes known in order to offer guidance on how to handle their affairs if and when all of the responsibility is passed on to you.
No matter what stage the parent is at, the subject needs to be approached. Again, earlier is better, as the parent is more likely to understand the importance of what is happening. You may choose to start the conversation by relating it to your own estate planning or by bringing up a situation you heard about recently, such as the death of a celebrity. A good elder lawyer in Atlanta GA can offer suggestions on how to bring up the subject, as well as how to help steer the conversation in the right direction.
There are a lot of reasons to consider setting up trusts for your children, but trust and estates lawyers in Atlanta see far too many cases where this just isn’t done. One of the biggest reasons for not setting up a trust could be that you just don’t think you have enough assets to warrant one. We hear about “trust fund babies” and automatically think of the super wealthy, not regular folks like ourselves.
Really, though, even those in the middle class should be thinking about setting up trusts for their children. Even if you don’t have a lot of extra money lying around, you have other assets that can quickly add up in value. Add to that the payout from a life insurance policy, and you suddenly realize that you have quite a bit of financial worth that might be left behind to children who are not ready to handle it. Anything more than about $100,000 is reasonable to consider putting into a trust for children here in Atlanta
What Does the Trust Do?
When you set up a trust with your trust and estates lawyer in Atlanta, you will discover that there are many different ways to use this tool. One of the most important benefits of a trust is that it allows you to stipulate how your children will use the money you leave behind. If your intention is for your kids to use the money for college, but they want to use it to buy a sports car instead, what’s to stop them?
In your case, the trust is what can stop them. You can implement restrictions on how the money is spent. You can, for example, determine that the funds in the trust are designated for specific functions, such as paying for education or day-to-day expenses. In some cases, there is a designated adult to help keep things on track, although this person must be chosen wisely. In other cases, the parent sets age limits on the trust, assuring that the children don’t have access to the money until they have more time to mature.
Protecting the Trust
Another reason to consider a trust is to protect your children’s money from misuse by the adult in charge of the funds. In the case of a “custodial” account, the person in charge can have a lot more say in how the money is spent. This could translate into frivolous expenses, including paying himself or herself an unrealistic amount to “manage” the funds. With a trust, however, the person in charge (the “trustee”) is held more accountable and is required to follow your wishes.
If the trustee does manage the funds poorly, it is also possible that your child would have some legal recourse, as the trust is a legal contract.
Talk to an Atlanta Trust and Estates Lawyer
The best way to determine if a trust is right for you and family is to talk to an Atlanta trust and estates lawyer. Our attorneys are available to sit down with you at no-charge to review your estate plan and consider how a trust or other estate planning tools can best meet your needs. To schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, simply call 770.425.6060 and mention this article.
The holidays are a traditional time for multiple generations to gather together, and are also a perfect opportunity for adult children to perform a reality check on how their aging parents are doing health-wise as well as assess financial and medical planning issues.
The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance provides these tips:
Check your elderly relatives’ home for potential fall hazards. If there is unopened mail and unpaid bills laying around, it may be a sign they are having difficulty coping with everyday living.
Check the pantry and refrigerator to ensure it is well stocked. If a parent has lost weight or there is spoiled food around, this is a sign that they may need some additional help around the house.
Make a list of all your parents’ medications and get the phone numbers of their primary care physicians.
Be sure you have the license numbers of all vehicles in case one is stolen or your parent goes missing.
Talk to your parents about advance health care directives. If they don’t have one, help them find a personal family lawyer (our Marietta family estate planning law firm can help you there) to talk to about creating these and other important estate planning documents.
If you’d like to learn more about wills, living wills, advance health care directives, power of attorney for health care designations or any other aspects of estate planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.
Many people approach estate planning attorneys in order to determine how their assets will be divided among survivors after their death. Unfortunately, a huge number of them don’t take the high likelihood of long-term care into consideration. Elder law attorneys in Atlanta see this situation come up time and again, and it is important to educate clients on the options they have available.
First of all, long-term care is a very likely scenario. People are now living longer than they ever have before. This can be a great thing, but it also means that the period of time in which we cannot fully care for ourselves may be longer, too. More and more people find that they truly need some form of long-term care. In some cases, this can be handled through an in-home healthcare worker rather than in a nursing home, but even that is expensive.
Nursing homes are a common solution when it comes to long-term care, and a good elder law attorney should help you plan for how to make this possibility happen. It’s common for people to think that the government will simply pay for their needs or that a nursing home isn’t any more expensive than renting an apartment. Both ideas are usually untrue.
So, how does one pay for long-term care? Elder care attorneys typically see four approaches:
- Private Pay – Any care that is needed, from nursing homes to prescriptions drugs (including co-payments or full costs) are covered out of pocket. Elder care services tend to be very expensive, and the costs associated with them are incredibly high. It’s not unusual for assisted-living placements to cost upwards of $8,000 a month. That means that “simple” basics that are required for day-to-day living come out to $96,000 a year.
- Medicare – Medicare is a health insurance program administered through the government. Elder law attorneys work with this program a lot because one of the basic requirements is that you must be over 65 to receive benefits. Many people are surprised to learn that Medicare does not typically cover long-term care. So, even if you qualify for this program, it cannot be used to cover nursing home care or in-home healthcare professionals for more than about 100 days.
- Medicaid – Medicaid is used by those with great financial need, and you must apply and qualify for the benefits. Many people are shocked when their elder law attorney explains that Medicaid is not actually available to everyone, and if you have much by way of assets (even a modest home or a few thousand dollars in the bank), you may not qualify at all. If you hope to qualify for Medicaid, you must prepare several years in advance to protect your assets.
- Long-Term Care Insurance – This type of insurance can help to cover or offset the costs associated with long-term care, such as an in-home healthcare worker or nursing home care. Policies can be somewhat confusing and expensive, so it’s highly recommended to work with an impartial elder law attorney when reviewing potential policies to ensure you understand them and are getting what you expect.
There are many issues to take into consideration when planning for your future, and long-term care is undoubtedly one of the most important. Working with an elder care attorney in Atlanta means that you will understand the options that are available to you and how they apply according to state and federal law.
By Steve Worrall, Atlanta GA elder lawyer
As an Atlanta GA elder lawyer, I help people plan for long-term care costs on a regular basis.
Long-term care can include any service that helps people who have a prolonged illness. The illness can be a physical disability or a cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia. The services may include help with activities of daily living, home health care, adult day care, hospice care, nursing home care, or care in an assisted living facility. The level of assistance required can include physical therapy, administration of medication, and help with daily activities such as bathing, eating, and dressing.
Paying for long-term care can be financially devastating to families. Contrary to what many people believe, Medicare coverage will not pay for most of the long-term care they will need if they suffer from a long-term illness. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average costs in the U.S. (in 2009) are:
- $198/day for a semi-private room in a nursing home
- $219/day for a private room in a nursing home
- $3,131/month for care in an Assisted Living Facility (for a one-bedroom unit)
- $21/hour for a Home Health Aide
- $19/hour for a Homemaker services
- $67/day for care in an Adult Day Health Care Center
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you are now young and healthy you don’t need to worry about long-term care, but consider this:
- Life expectancy after age 65 has now increased to 17.9 years, up from 1940 when life expectancy after 65 was only 13 extra years. The longer people live, the greater the chance they will need assistance due to chronic conditions.
- 44% of people reaching age 65 are expected to enter a nursing home at least once in their lifetime and 53% of them will stay for one year or longer.
So, the bottom line is that millions of us are going to need long-term care. It is important to put an estate plan in place that will protect your assets if you become disabled. I’ve seen too many instances where a family has waited until a crisis strikes to take action. Most of the time it’s then too late to save their assets and income from the hands of such a facility.
But instead, you can talk to an estate planning attorney now to ensure your bills will be covered in the long-run without losing your house, your assets or other income sources in the process. To get started, simply call me, your neighborhood Atlanta elder law attorney at 770-425-6060 for a free Peace of Mind Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session.
Together we’ll walk through the complicated world of long-term care planning to ensure your family is protected when they need it the most.