As they age, many people have diminished capacity and cannot care for themselves. They may no longer be able to walk or drive easily and can experience difficulty with basic activities like shopping, cooking, cleaning, and arranging important doctor’s appointments. Traditionally, the adult children of the elderly have been caregivers, monitoring their parent’s health and overseeing financial decisions, reports the article “ICYMI | Getting Older Without Family” from CPA Journal. Parents without children, or those without good relationships with children, need to make alternative arrangements. An experienced estate planning attorney can help.
Living arrangements. Most people prefer to remain in their homes, in familiar surroundings. This may work if the home can be made elderly-friendly and a support system is implemented. A home alert system or automatic daily call-ins can be arranged through friends or local police departments. If remaining at home is not viable, an assisted living facility or continuing care retirement community may be the next best option if the cost can be managed.
Healthcare matters. Having a healthcare advocate is advisable for everyone. So is a Healthcare Proxy, or Healthcare Power of Attorney, which designates a person to act as the patient’s agent in making decisions. A Living Will details the kind of treatment a person does or doesn’t want if they cannot express their wishes.
Finances. As they age, people may find managing their finances too difficult. There are several options, depending on the degree of help needed. A CPA or financial advisor may be able to provide money management services. Banks may permit an account owner to add the name of another person with signatory authority—they can sign checks but are not an account owner. A representative can be named to receive Social Security funds, and they must file reports with the Social Security Administration to show how the funds have been used.
Durable Power of Attorney. This is the most critical planning tool for seniors and others. This designates an agent to act on behalf of the elderly person in financial matters. It can be created to define the scope of the agent’s authority and remains effective when the elderly person becomes incapacitated. It must be created and executed when the person has the requisite capacity.
Trusts. A trust holds legal title to an older adult’s assets, including bank accounts, brokerage accounts, or their home. The trust is managed by a trustee for the benefit of the elderly person. There are several different trusts available, depending on the situation. A Living Trust can be used while the person can still manage assets and act as their trustee, retaining the right to revoke the trust and regain title to assets. If the person becomes incapacitated, another person named the successor or co-trustee takes over, assuming the trust has not been revoked. The trustee could be a trusted professional, a relative, or a bank trust department, which may be expensive but is a good option for an aging person with significant resources but no individual to serve as the trustee.
Instead of a living trust, the elderly person may set up an Irrevocable Lifetime Trust for Medicaid and long-term care planning purposes wherein someone else is designated a trustee from the start.
Aging alone may seem like a daunting experience, but with the right planning and support network in place, it can be rewarding, enjoyable, and safe.
Reference: CPA Journal (July 2023) “ICYMI | Getting Older Without Family”
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