Caring for a loved one in declining health can be one of the most challenging aspects of any parent/child relationship, as it puts you in a position of having to make critical decisions that impact your loved one’s overall quality of life. Therefore, it is important to have specific legal documents drafted and executed which will enable you to act in their best interests. A Power of Attorney allows authority to be delegated to you so you can act on behalf of your loved one. Such authority may be as broad or specific as you and your loved one desires. For further information, it is recommended that you contact an attorney in your State to discuss whether a Power of Attorney is right for your loved one and you.
Healthcare Directives & Designations
Every adult who is not incapacitated has the right to make certain decisions concerning their health, including the right to select or reject medical treatment. If your loved one anticipates or contemplates becoming incapacitated in the future, states provide laws which allow a competent adult to make certain directives – in advance – regarding decisions related to their healthcare. Such decisions include, but are not limited to, instructing a physician to provide, refrain from or terminate life-prolonging procedures or designating another person to make treatment-related decisions if the person is unable to make the choice on their own. These directives can be accomplished by drafting and executing a Living Will or Health Care Surrogate Designation. A Living Will provides express instructions on health-care related decisions in the event of incapacity and takes effect while the person is still alive. A Health Care Surrogate Designation nominates another person to represent your loved one and make medical decisions for them should they become incapacitated. For further information regarding Living Wills and Health Care Surrogate Designations, it is recommended that you contact an attorney or your primary healthcare provider early on in the process.
Seniors who do not own a home may decide to enter into a residential lease. Many states have instituted special protections for tenants which are available to them when they have a dispute with their landlord. If your loved one is disabled and considering entering into a lease, the landlord cannot discriminate against them solely on the basis of their age or disability. Many seniors also live in housing which is administered by a State or Federal agency. Disputes with landlords in the context of State and/or Federal Housing may have different legal protections depending on the State in which you live. Lastly, when any tenant is threatened with eviction, the landlord must utilize the proper legal channels to lawfully evict them. For more information on residential leases, landlord/tenant disputes, housing discrimination and issues related to State or Federal public housing, please contact an attorney within your State.
Many seniors rely on State and Federal governments to provide necessary aid when the senior cannot completely provide for themselves. Such programs as Food Assistance, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare or Medicaid are among these. Obtaining and maintaining these benefits are crucial to ensure the survival of your loved one during their senior years. However, the government may deny these benefits for a variety of reasons. Effective legal representation is necessary to ensure that seniors receive the benefits that they are entitled to without undue delay. For more information about obtaining public benefits or issues related to a denial of benefits, please contact an attorney in your State.
Seniors may have to contend with issues related to foreclosure, bankruptcy and/or debt collection efforts due to credit card bills, home improvement contracts, or medical bills. Also, once creditors obtain a judgment, a creditor may seek to garnish Social Security and/or any wages a senior may be receiving. Coupled with the propensity for certain entities who try to defraud or take advantage of seniors, legal representation may be necessary to ensure that your loved one is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve and have worked so long to earn. If you or your loved one have any questions regarding a demand for payment or allegations of nonpayment of a debt, you should contact an attorney within your State to discuss these matters in a timely manner in order to determine whether legal representation is necessary and what options are available to them.
Abuse & Domestic Violence
Perhaps the most alarming situation to encounter is learning of allegations that your loved one is being abused while in the care of another or by another family member. Many states have special legal protections which criminalize such behavior in addition to civil liability penalties for abusing seniors. Effective legal representation is necessary in order to prove abusive conduct and hold the party or parties responsible for their abusive conduct. For further information on pursuing claims for elderly abuse or domestic violence, please contact an attorney within your State who specializes in such matters.
Mourning the loss of a loved one can be a difficult time for adult children. The last thing an offspring wants to do during a period of mourning is to confront the issue of disposition of a now-deceased parent’s property. A properly-executed will helps alleviate some of this stress by directly controlling the disposition of your loved one’s property at death. By obtaining a properly-executed will, your loved one will decide who gets their property instead of leaving this decision up to a Court of Law. For further information, contact an attorney in your State to discuss the creation of a will and to assist in the drafting and execution of a will and other Estate Planning documents.
During your loved one’s lifetime, chances are that they have accumulated assets which will need to be distributed upon their death. A Revocable Trust is a legal document which allows a parent to designate themselves or another person to manage that parent’s assets during their lifetime and distribute the remaining assets upon their death. A feature of the Revocable Trust is that the document is allowed to be modified or terminated during the lifetime of the parent, barring certain exceptions. For further information, it is highly recommended that you contact an attorney in the state in which your loved one lives to discuss the creation of a Revocable Trust and to assist in the drafting and execution of a Trust Agreement and other Estate Planning documents.
Observing a loved one who has become incapacitated can be one of the most heart-wrenching and stressful times for an adult child. If no other Estate Planning mechanisms are in place, one may have to seek a judicial determination that their loved one is incapacitated and petition the Court to allow them to act as Guardian. A Guardianship is a legal proceeding where the Court appoints an individual to exercise the legal rights of the incapacitated individual. A Guardianship can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the duration of the incapacity. For more information about Guardianship, please contact an attorney in the state where your senior loved one resides.
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