Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Plan While You Can: Now is the Time to Make Critical Life Decisions

Clients frequently come in to our offices seeking to get a Power of Attorney and Advanced Healthcare Directive for a parent who is suffering some degree of dementia. In many cases, one parent has died, and the remaining parent is no longer able to manage his/her financial matters or make informed health care decisions. Unfortunately, by the time these clients come in, it is often too late; that parent is no longer legally qualified to sign documents.

The solution is a Conservatorship

In most of these situations, our clients become court-appointed Conservators of both the Person and the Estate—a process that is both expensive and time-consuming. Sadly, this could have been avoided by creating a Financial Power of Attorneyand a Health Care Directive when those parents were still alert and legally able to sign documents.

Jane Bryant Quinn recommends long-term planning to protect against poor decision-making later in life

Jane Bryant Quinn, a personal finance advisor who writes for the AARP, discusses the importance of making important life decisions while you still can, protecting yourself against the risk of poor decision-making in the later stages of your life when you may be affected by dementia or other illnesses.
Quinn uses the example of a University of California professor whose 85-year-old father had fallen down the stairs, broken some bones and had become very weak. Yet for some reason, without consulting his son or healthcare providers, he decided to cancel his long-term care insurance. Within two years, he wound up in a nursing home, uninsured. That fall had taken a big toll and the client’s father was no longer thinking clearly. If anything, the fall and its subsequent debilitating effect should have prompted him to take out more long-term care insurance—not cancel it completely!

Loss of powers might come on us gradually or suddenly

The better prepared we are, the safer we’ll be. Below are some suggestions on ways to plan for old age now to ensure you will be making sound decisions.
  • Simplify your finances to make it easy for someone to take over.
  • Consolidate any scattered CD accounts and IRAs.
  • Set up automatic payments for household bills.
  • Create good financial files that are easily accessed. If you pay your bills and access your accounts online, provide login information.
  • Choose an Agentwho will help you with your finances if you become uncertain or unable. Give your Agent durable financial Power of Attorney.
  • Get in the habit of talking to your Agent about even small money decisions.
  • Make sure your financial adviser(s) is part of your plans and has the name of your Power of Attorney and can contact him/her if you begin to do irregular things with your money.
  • Create an Advance Healthcare Directive and name an Agent. This person will be making critical medical decisions for you if you can no longer do this yourself.
  • If you’ve not already done this, create a Living Trust and make sure this is funded and updated with important life events. At California Document Preparers, our Living Trust package includes a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive.

Other considerations for your long-term planning

  • Where will you live? The family home may be more than you can manage. This may be the time to downsize to a smaller home or condo or investigate independent or assisted living possibilities. Many senior communities provide a wide range of activities and care designed to help keep seniors from becoming isolated.
  • Think about when you’ll give up driving. This may be part of the downsizing plan that will determine where you live. If you give up driving, you may want to live where you’re able to walk or take public transportation to services and activities.
The more work you do now to prepare for the possible eventualities of old age, the easier it will be for your children.
Do you need to create or update your Living Trust? Life changes mean that it’s often necessary to name a different Agent for your Healthcare Directive or Power of Attorney.  Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.

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