Gainesville Estate Planning Law Blog

How a trust can protect your legacy in your golden years

Retirement planning is an important process that helps ensure your financial stability as you age. For many adults, planning for retirement goes hand-in-hand with estate planning for the future. Some of the same issues need consideration in estate and retirement planning.

Quite a few people don't really consider what will happen if they experience a significant decline in their overall health as they age. However, the older adults become, the more likely it is they will experience medical issues that will require substantial levels of care.

Be alert for signs of mental illness in an elder loved one

Georgia residents who are age 65 or older often begin to encounter certain challenges in life. Perhaps physical health is not what it once was and an older person finds him or herself needing to visit a doctor's office more often. As loved ones age, some may also show signs of mental illness, which can be debilitating in its most serious form. In fact, mental decline or incapacitation is often a central focus of long-term care planning.

Signs of mental illness are not always abrupt or obvious. Many times, mental decline shows itself in gradual, often subtle ways. When helping to care for an aging parent or loved one, it is important to keep watch for signs of possible mental health problems. While most elders' capacity to remember things wanes with age, if a loved one starts misplacing belongings or struggling to recognize immediate family members, it may warrant further examination.

Conservatorship: Whether it overrides a POA depends on this

Many Georgia families include elder members who are suffering from various stages of mental decline. There is often more than one person, such as adult children of the loved one, who are trying to work together to protect their loved one's rights and best interests. The problem is that siblings often encounter challenges when they disagree about what is best for an aging parent. Such situations sometimes lead to petitions for conservatorship.

When a court appoints a conservator, it is granting decision-making authority to a person on behalf of a ward, in this case, an aging parent who has become mentally incapacitated. The guardian/conservator is tasked with managing the ward's financial and medical issues as long as the ward is unable to do so because of his or her condition. A court-appointed conservatorship often nullifies an existing power of attorney. 

Nursing home issues can spark elder law problems

When a Georgia adult son or daughter helps an aging parent transition to assisted living, he or she often speaks with many facility officials before determining which specific place is the best fit for his or her loved one. Nursing home issues are often a central focus of long-term care planning. Sadly, not all care providers do their jobs well. In fact, some are downright neglectful or abusive, which was apparently the case in another state.

Siblings in that state say nursing home workers abused their 91-year-old mother. She is known for her distaste of hospital gowns. The woman's children say their mother was left with severe emotional trauma after two staff members intentionally taunted her with a hospital gown.

Family support or residential care for special needs adults?

A big part of your role as the parent or caregiver for a special needs adult involves making important decisions on behalf of your special needs child, regardless of how old they now are. One of the most difficult realities for parents of special needs children is the fact that the children will continue to need care into adulthood and even well after you eventually die or become medically unable to provide care anymore.

Planning for the future of your loved one typically involves two primary concerns. The first is financial planning, which may involve the creation of a special needs trust to leave behind assets for your loved one. The second is planning for the practical care and support a special needs adult requires.

Conservatorship: Problems can arise if family members disagree

If mental or physical incapacitation prevents a Georgia adult from being able to speak or act on his or her own behalf, the court may issue a ruling that designates another person to do it. Conservatorship allows a court-appointed person to manage financial or other daily life affairs for an aging parent, other loved one or even a non-family member. This can sometimes spark contention if the person over whom a conservatorship has been granted does not think he or she needs it.

A former actress who is best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek reportedly had a confrontation with her son a while back after a judge appointed him her legal conservator. Nichelle Nichols is said to suffer from dementia although a movie producer who is also her friend adamantly claims otherwise. The friend also stated that there are problems in the mother/son relationship in this case.

A financial power of attorney is a helpful estate planning tool

Many Georgians are adult children of aging parents. It is natural for a son or daughter to want to help mom and/or dad set up a long-term care plan. Estate planning often addresses long-term care issues and can include a financial power of attorney.

An aging parent who is showing signs of mental decline may reach a point where he or she is unable to act independently regarding medical or financial decisions. This is why a financial power of attorney is such a valuable estate planning tool. While a parent is still of sound mind, he or she can designate a son or daughter, or other trusted individual, to make decisions or transactions in the principal's name if a time comes when the principal becomes incapacitated.

How to estimate the costs of care for a special needs adult

Having a child or grandchild with special needs means that you have to plan for their future in a way that most parents never do. In many cases, you can anticipate that the special needs individual in your family will outlive you, which means they will have a need for financial resources long after you're gone.

Instead of despairing over this issue, you can start planning now to provide a good quality of life and a safety net for a family member who is dependent on the care of others. The creation of a special needs trust with someone competent as a trustee is an ideal way to provide for a loved one long into the future.

Getting married late in life? Discuss estate planning

Many Georgia residents are waiting until they are older to get married, perhaps age 40, 50 or beyond. There are many reasons people say they're choosing to wait to get married until later in life. Getting married at age 55 is definitely different than getting married at age 25. The older spouses are, the more critical it is for them to discuss estate planning as they transition into married life.

Someone who marries at an older age might already have executed a last will and testament. It is imperative that wills be updated if a marriage takes place after one has been signed. It's natural that an estate owner would want to make a new spouse a beneficiary, which can easily be incorporated into an estate plan.

Long-term care planning: Build a strong support network

In Georgia and across the country, the U.S. population is aging. If you're age 65 or older, you may find yourself focusing more on long-term care planning than you used to at a younger age. As time passes, it is understandable that you want to make sure your estate plan is organized and up to date, that you have discussed your wishes, needs and goals with your  loved ones, and are building a network of support that you can tap into for assistance, as needed.

If you've noticed that you are experiencing more health concerns in your 60s than you did a decade or so ago, that is also understandable. Many older people, even those who have enjoyed good health most of their lives, begin to see and feel signs of aging as they near age 70. In some cases, assisted living becomes a viable option when it is no longer possible to sustain an independent living lifestyle.

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