Articles: Four “talking points” in eldercare
Over time, the roles of parents and children inevitably change, especially if one or more of the parents has health problems. This can raise sensitive financial issues. For example, an elderly parent may no longer be competent to handle his or her affairs. You might ignore the situation and hope it goes away, but that is not a realistic approach.
Instead, it is generally better to discuss “eldercare planning” frankly and openly with your parents. Include siblings and anyone else who should be involved. Here are four practical suggestions.
1. Take it slow. It is usually not necessary to cover everything in one or two sittings (unless the parties live far apart). In most cases, your relationship won’t change overnight, but rather over the course of several years.
2. Be gentle. If you hit your parents with a ton of information, they may be overwhelmed. Instead of opening up, the lines of communication can close. You might start by showing your parents a relevant clipping from a newspaper or magazine. If you give them time to talk with friends, they will find out that others are in a similar positon.
3. Emphasize that you have your parents’ best interests at heart. If they are like most elderly people, they will want to maintain their independence for as long as possi ble. You may be able to provide some options that allow them to keep a degree of control over their lives and finances.
4. Ask the critical questions. Then you can begin to plot a course of action. Some typical questions are:
Do you have a will, power of attorney, living will or similar document? Where is it located? How about a letter of instruction?
Do you have life insurance, disability insurance and longterm care insurance policies? Who are the insurers and for how much?
Are you covered by a pension plan or other retirement plan? What about Individual Retiement Accounts (IRAs)?
Who maintains them and what is the value? Who are the beneficiaries?
Do you receive Social Security benefits? How much? Are the benefits directly deposited into your bank account?
Are you receiving income from other sources, such as annuities, stocks, bonds, or certificates of deposit (CDs)? What are they and how much?
-What are your real estate investments? Is any property owned as a “life estate” where ownership ends at death?
Do you have any other assets? What is their value and
where are they located? How about bank accounts and safe deposit boxes?
Have you already transferred some of your assets? Whom did you give them to and how much?
Develop a plan that satisfies the main objectives while taking all the factors into account. For example, you may contemplate use of a trust designed to provide Medicaid benefits. Caution: The laws may vary from state to state.
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