It seems like before we know it, our kids are grown up. As they enter adulthood, our own parents also begin a new phase in life. One of the greatest blessings we have is that our loved ones are now living longer, allowing us more priceless time and memories together. But with that comes great concern for those loved ones who may not have prepared financially to live through these extended years. This can cause both our aging loved ones and our extended family distress.
As our loved one's age, they may begin to require more and more help with daily activities. Family members (statistically the adult daughter) usually step in first to help, but in time realize they can’t provide the level of care that is necessary. While they want to meet their moral obligation to loved ones by helping them with daily activities, managing medical and financial decisions, and securing safe living arrangements, the family caregiver often becomes overwhelmed trying to continue living his or her own life in the midst of these important duties. The family caregiver usually begins to experience high stress, anxiety, guilt, and even depression as a result.
Eventually, family caregivers look for outside help to ensure their aging loved one has the complete care that he or she needs. They are often shocked when they find out that securing in-home care or long-term care is very expensive. The average cost per month for nursing home care is now $7,092 in California!
This is when family members panic and begin looking at all possible options, as they realize that their aging loved one will likely run out of money paying for long-term care. Family members might look first at their own financial resources but quickly realize they can’t afford the high cost of long-term care while supporting a family of their own. They also know they are not equipped to personally provide the level of care that is needed.
While the State and Federal Government have financial resources available to assist aging loved ones with long-term care costs, the aging loved one usually must be completely broke to qualify. Unfortunately, once your loved one exhausts all financial resources, your options for quality care greatly diminish. This adds another level of distress and helplessness, as family members worry that their loved ones will not have the quality of care they desire, and will not be permitted to age with dignity.
This is where we come in.
We help your loved one secure government benefits to fund in-home care or long-term care, without them having to first go broke. This is accomplished legally and ethically through robust medical and financial powers of attorney, gifting strategies, trusts, and other strategies, that help your aging loved ones retain their financial security and age with dignity.
What Government Benefits Might Be Available to Your Loved Ones?
Many aging seniors may be eligible for Medi-Cal or VA Aid and Attendance Benefit. These benefits can provide your loved ones additional financial resources to help fund the cost of in-home care or long-term care assistance.
Medi-Cal is a benefit through California’s Medicaid health care program that helps seniors fund their long-term care needs. (It is different from Medicare because Medicare is an entitlement program for those that have paid into the system). Medi-Cal is a program you must qualify for to receive benefits, and which requires seniors to have very few financial resources in their name.
Fortunately, our planning strategies can help your loved ones preserve their assets but still qualify for Medi-Cal. And because your loved ones still have assets, we can use those assets to help supplement the high cost of long-term care to cover what Medi-Cal will not.
Now is the time to use our strategies to qualify your loved one for Medi-Cal. California has adopted the DRA (Deficit Reduction Act of 2006) but has not yet implemented it. When it does, it will become much more difficult to obtain Medi-Cal while preserving family assets, leaving your loved one at great risk!
The VA Aid and Attendance Benefit
Another benefit that may be available to your loved ones is the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit. This is a federal benefit available to seniors who served our country during a war-time period or to the Veteran’s surviving spouse. To qualify, the Veteran needs to require daily assistance with activities. He or she also needs to have served at least three months in the armed services, during which time there was one active day of combat (even if the Veteran did not physically see combat). The other main requirement is that the Veteran (or the surviving spouse) only has limited resources or assets in his or her name.
Like Medi-Cal planning, we can help Veterans (or the surviving spouse) secure the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit without having to first go broke! Now is the time though to secure this important benefit before the law makes this benefit more difficult to obtain!
Thank you, Veterans for your service to our country.
Powers of Attorney and Conservatorships
Eventually, our aging loved ones will likely need some level of help managing their personal medical care or finances, even if they still have mental capacity. It’s imperative that your aging loved ones execute valid and robust powers of attorney so someone they trust can make financial and medical decisions when they can no longer make these decisions for themselves.
Without having these medical and financial powers of attorneys in place, family members are greatly limited in what they can do to help their loved ones once they lose mental capacity. The family ends up having to go through a long and expensive court process called a Conservatorship to get the legal authority to handle their loved one’s affairs. That’s why it’s imperative to act now.
A Financial Power of Attorney (also called a general durable power of attorney) is a legal document you sign that allows someone else (called your agent) to manage your finances if you become incapacitated and can no longer make those decisions yourself.
Not all financial powers of attorney are the same! It’s imperative that you work with an attorney who can ensure your power of attorney will provide great protection and flexibility so your agent has the powers necessary to make the best decisions for you in real time. If a power of attorney is not robust or comprehensive, it may greatly limit your agent’s ability to fully protect you in your time of need, or take advantage of legal strategies that could benefit you financially.
If you permanently lose mental capacity before executing a valid and robust financial power of attorney, your family members cannot handle your finances for you without going through a court process known as a Conservatorship. This will not only cause great frustration, but also additional costs, hassle, and delay that could have been avoided by executing a valid financial power of attorney.
Medical Directives usually address three key wishes: who you want to make your medical decisions, what your end of life wishes are, and who can receive information about your condition if you cannot communicate.
An Advanced Health Care Directive (also called a health care power of attorney) is a legal document you sign that designates someone you trust to make medical decisions for you if you lack the mental capacity to make these decisions for yourself. A Living Will declares your wishes for your end of life care and specifies whether you wish to be removed from artificial life support if your doctors determine you will never recover from your injury or illness. A HIPAA Authorization specifies who can speak with your doctors or the hospital and receive information about your condition if you cannot temporarily or permanently communicate.
Not all medical directives are the same! It is important that your medical directives provide great protection and flexibility so you can receive the care and treatments you need at all times.
If you lose your mental capacity before executing valid and robust medical directives, your family members cannot handle your medical care for you without going through a court process known as a Conservatorship. This will not only cause great frustration, but also additional costs, hassle, and delay that could have been avoided by executing valid medical directives.
For many of us who have an aging parent or loved one whose quality of life is beginning to decline, we often find ourselves in the middle of a crisis very quickly. Hopefully, our loved one has executed robust financial and medical powers of attorney before losing capacity so power to act on their behalf can be easily transferred to us. But, for those families where there are no legal documents in place, and the loved one no longer has the mental capacity to understand what they are doing, a conservatorship may be necessary.
A Conservatorship is a court process where we ask a judge to appoint someone to care for your aging loved one because they can no longer care for themselves or manage their own finances. This usually happens if an aging loved one has dementia. Most family members seek a General Conservatorship over their parent or loved one who has lost complete mental and physical capability to care for themselves, while a Limited Conservatorship is generally reserved for younger adults with disabilities.
The Conservatorship process typically takes about 4 months to complete, and involves filing a petition with the court to become the conservator of your loved one, informing your loved one that you intend to seek a conservatorship over them, informing your loved one’s relatives of the sought conservatorship, having a court investigator speak to your loved one, a court hearing/appearance before the judge to consider your request, attending a conservatorship class, obtaining an official court order that grants you the powers of conservator, and maintenance.
The conservatorship process can be complex in nature, which is why we strongly recommend that you work with an experienced attorney through this process. As your special needs attorney, our goal is to make sure the conservatorship process is as easy as possible for you, so you can focus on other things that are important to you or your loved ones. We are also well equipped to handle any surprises that may arise during the process.
If a loved one needs immediate assistance, and you lack the legal authority to assist him or her, we encourage you to talk with us right away. As your trusted Elder Law attorney, we can help your family through this challenging time and process. There is no reason to navigate these massive life changes alone. The sooner you can obtain a Conservatorship granting you the legal authority to handle your loved one’s affairs and care, the sooner you can move forward with your own personal life and feel a sense of order again.
We encourage you to call our warm and welcoming Client Services Director, Bonnie Johnson at (949) 718-0420 to get started on securing an Elder Law plan that can ensure your loved one can protect their assets, secure financial resources available to them, and ensure their medical and financial decisions can be made for them according to their wishes. Help is one phone call away! We would be honored to serve your family and will treat your aging loved one the same way we would expect our own loving parents to be treated.