As our loved ones age, it is important to consider how we can best support them when they can no longer care for themselves. Whether due to physical or cognitive decline, many elderly individuals will require assistance with daily activities at some point. It can be challenging to navigate the legal and practical aspects of caring for an elderly loved one, but with proper planning and support, it is possible to provide them with the care and attention they need. The NBMS Law team is here for any elder legal issues you may have.
There are several legal considerations to keep in mind when caring for an elderly loved one. One of the most important is estate planning. An estate plan can help ensure that your loved one’s wishes are followed and that their assets are distributed according to their wishes. An estate plan typically includes a will, a durable power of attorney, and a healthcare proxy.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that outlines how your loved one’s assets will be distributed after they pass away. It is crucial to make sure that their will is up-to-date and reflects their current wishes. If your loved one does not have a will, they should consider creating one as soon as possible.
A valid will must be in writing and signed by the testator. The testator is the individual who is creating the will. Pennsylvania, like many states, does consider ‘holographic wills’ in certain cases. Holographic wills are ones that are written in the testator’s handwriting, but they must be signed and dated. The best option is to have an estate plan with a thorough will created by elder law attorneys such as those at NBMS Law.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
A durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone else to make financial decisions on behalf of your loved one if they become unable to make those decisions themselves. That person is called an ‘agent,’ and they have no authority to act as an agent unless they have been specifically named in a valid power of attorney document. A valid power of attorney must be in writing, dated, and signed.
An agent has many duties, including the following:
- Acting in accordance with the principal’s reasonable expectations to the extent actually known by the agent. The principal is the individual who created the power of attorney document.
- Acting in good faith.
- Acting only within the scope of authority granted in the power of attorney document.
- Acting loyally for the principal’s benefit.
- Preserving the principal’s estate plan, to the extent actually known by the agent.
What is a Living Will?
According to Pennsylvania law, a living will is a writing that expresses a principal’s wishes and instructions for health care and healthcare directions when the principal is determined to be incompetent and has an end-stage medical condition or is permanently unconscious. ‘Permanently unconscious’ means a medical condition that has been diagnosed in accordance with currently accepted medical standards and with reasonable medical certainty as total and irreversible loss of consciousness and capacity for interaction with the environment. For example, a permanent coma.
A living will allows the individual to specify whether they want to receive life-sustaining treatment or not and under what circumstances. You and your loved one should ensure that this document is up to date with the elder law attorneys at NBMS Law to best reflect your current wishes.
In addition to legal considerations, there are several practical steps you can take to care for an elderly loved one. One of the most important is to assess their needs and create a care plan. This may include assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, and eating, as well as medical care and social activities.
Assistance with ADLs can be provided by a home health aide or a caregiver. It is important to choose a caregiver who is qualified and experienced in caring for elderly individuals. You may also want to consider hiring a geriatric care manager to help coordinate your loved one’s care.
Medical care may include regular check-ups with a primary care physician, as well as visits with specialists as needed. It is important to make sure that your loved one’s medical needs are being met and that they are receiving appropriate treatment.
Social activities can be an important part of an elderly individual’s care plan. This may include visits with friends and family, participation in community activities, and involvement in hobbies and interests. Social activities can help keep your loved one engaged and improve their quality of life.
Caring for an elderly loved one can be expensive, and it is important to plan accordingly. One of the first steps you should take is to assess your loved one’s financial situation. This may include reviewing their income, expenses, and assets.
If your loved one has limited income and assets, they may be eligible for government assistance programs such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). It is important to understand the eligibility requirements for these programs and to work with an experienced elder law attorney to ensure that your loved one’s assets are protected.
If your loved one has significant assets, you may want to consider setting up a trust or other estate planning tools to help protect their assets and ensure that they are used for their care and benefit.
NBMS Law Can Help
Caring for an elderly loved one can be challenging, but with proper planning and support, it is possible to provide them with the care and attention they need. Our attorneys have handled numerous complicated elder law cases and are ready to do the same for you and your loved ones. NBMS Law helps individuals and families across the state of Pennsylvania with various aspects of estate planning, including power of attorney, living wills, and other documents. Our experienced attorneys will provide guidance regarding how to best protect your assets, minimize tax implications, and thoroughly plan for long-term care needs. Contact NBMS Law in Beaver, Pennsylvania, today.