Some of the legal questions that we can answer for you include:

  • Why do I need a Will?
  • What is a Living Trust?
  • What are advance directives?
  • What is Elder Law?
  • What is Guardianship
  • What is Probate?
  • How will I pay for Long Term Care?

Elder Law Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to plan?
The best time is now -- when your parent is healthy and competent. However, if there hasn't been any planning, it's never too late. It might not be the same kind of plan if it had been earlier on, and you might be more limited in what you can do, but you can make adjustments to meet the needs of your parent. There's always something that can be done.

What are some strategies to begin the conversation?
There isn't one answer here as it involves different feelings and relationships. If the child has done some estate planning, you could say something like, "My husband and I took care of our estate planning and we feel a lot better now that we have our affairs in order. It made me think about whether you've taken care of this."
Or you could relate the situation to what a friend is going through, such as: "Mary is having a lot of trouble because her mom had a stroke and had to enter into a nursing home. I'm worried how this will work if anything happens to you and I was wondering if we could meet with an attorney." This conversation is for the child, about the child being fine. Hopefully the parent will want to take care of it.

What are the next steps and what might be different based on decision-making ability?
It depends on how perceptive the parent is. Hopefully they have some capacity in their decision-making ability. In this case, the next step would be meeting with an elder law attorney to dictate what they want and put a plan in place. If there's more than one child, the best thing would be if everyone was involved in meeting with the attorney so there's transparency. In the instance that not all family members can be present, communication is key and everyone still needs to be aware of the decisions being made. This is assuming that there is no split in the family.

What are the documents that need to be in order?
Listed in order of importance:

  1. Durable Power of Attorney
  2. Health Care Directive
  3. HIPAA Release Form
  4. Will & Replicable Trust

If you can't take care of all of these things, start with the top.

Is there anything specific to estate planning that families should keep in mind?
The most important concern for estate planning is figuring out if you want to protect assets and qualify the parent for Medicaid to pay for care. A lot of things require a five-year waiting period, which should give families incentive to plan ahead. To manage these affairs, you want to find someone who not only has experience with estate planning but also long-term care planning such as an elder law attorney.