If you are elderly and chronically ill, consider these steps in creating your comprehensive estate plan:
1) organizing your information, especially emergency contacts
2) designate your financial agent and your personal care/healthcare agent
3) communicate your healthcare wishes to your personal care/healthcare agent
4) if you have minor or disabled children, designate a guardian/conservator for him or her and plan for his or her needs
5) at a minimum, execute a Last Will and Testament, designating your executor and expressing your wishes on the beneficiaries of your estate upon your death,
6) consider creating a revocable living trust to provide for your needs if incapacity occurs and to avoid probate upon your death.
Estate Planning Necessities
Organization of Emergency and Financial Information
If you are elderly, chronically ill, or disabled, the steps outlined above become necessities, not just considerations. It is imperative you organize your information prior to losing capacity or being physically unable to assemble the information. If your financial agent or personal care/healthcare agent is called upon to assist you, this information will be vitally important to them.
Designate Your Agents and Complete Durable Power of Attorney, Advance Health Care Directive and HIPAA Pre-Authorization Form
If you do not designate your financial agent and personal care/healthcare agent by executing a durable power of attorney for property and an advance health care directive, it is possible no one will have access to your finances to pay your bills if you are incapacitated and a battle may ensue regarding your healthcare. Without a durable power of attorney for property, someone will likely need to seek a conservatorship to handle your financial affairs. With a durable power of attorney, however, you can minimize that possibility and designate your chosen conservator if a conservatorship cannot be avoided. You must execute your durable power of attorney, advance health care directive and HIPAA Pre-Authorization Form while you still have the legal capacity to do so though. Conservatorships can be costly and they require annual accountings to the court. If you do not designate your personal care/health care agent by executing an advance health care directive, the situation may arise where more than one of your children, siblings, or friends seek to make healthcare decisions for you. California has preferences on who can serve as your conservator of the person. These preferences may not align with your wishes. For instance, a child has a high priority to be appointed as a conservator of the person; however, you may wish to have your boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend make your healthcare decisions. Unfortunately, these persons have no priority under California law. Your child would likely be appointed your conservator despite your desire for someone else to serve. In addition, the Health Insurance Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects your healthcare information from disclosure. Sometimes, however, well-intentioned health professionals and organizations use the law to prevent the disclosure of your health care information to the persons you would like to have access to this information. HIPAA can create a barrier to accessing your health care information during a crisis. A HIPAA Pre-Authorization Form makes it much easier for your healthcare agent to gain access to your protected health care information from doctors, hospitals, labs and other healthcare professionals.
Communicate Your Wishes
Many individuals assume that their family members know their healthcare and personal care wishes. This is far from the truth. Many family disputes have occurred over whether to place mom in an assisted living facility or pay for caregivers in her home. Disputes arise on a frequent basis on the level of care to be provided to a terminally ill patient. Family members even fight over whether to donate organs (if the possibility exists) and whether burial or cremation is desired. Open communication with your designated personal care/healthcare agent will dramatically decrease the possibility of such disputes, especially when your choice of designated person is communicated to other family members.
Designate Your Guardians and Conservators for Children
If you do not arrange for the care of your minor children or disabled adult children, personnel in the county in which you live or who work for the state will likely arrange for you, most often assisted by the Probate Court. Again, the decisions made by these individuals or the court may not comport with your desires. By designating a guardian for your minor children and a conservator for your adult disabled children, you have taken the first step in assuring that your children are taken care of in the manner that you desire.
Execute a Last Will and Testament
Preparing and signing your Will allows you to designate the person you wish to manage your affairs after you pass away (your executor), and designate who will receive your assets after your debts have been settled. Failure to execute a Will leaves the appointment of your executor as well as the details of the distribution of your estate up to the laws of the State of California, and the intestacy laws of California may not match your wishes.
Organization of Emergency and Financial Information
A revocable living trust will simplify the administration of your finances should you become incapacitated. It will also allow you to designate who will receive your estate and the terms on which they will receive your assets while also avoiding a probate proceeding. Without a revocable living trust, it may be more difficult for your designated successor to manage your finances. If your assets are tied up in a probate after your death, it could be months or perhaps years before your intended beneficiaries receive their inheritance. Their inheritance would also be reduced by the legal fees, executor fees, publication costs, filing fees and other administrative costs associated with the probate.
Don’t Delay – Our Riverside Estate Planning for the Elderly and Chronically Ill Attorneys Can Help.
If you have a chronic illness or disability, the time for you to prepare your estate plan is now because it may not be possible to prepare a comprehensive estate plan in the future, subjecting your estate and loved ones to costly court proceedings in the form of a conservatorship or a probate. By acting now, however, you have the ability to protect your estate and your loved ones as well as the opportunity to ensure that your wishes will be honored in the future. Contact the Riverside estate planning for the elderly and chronically ill attorneys to get started on your plan by calling 951-888-1460 now to schedule your consultation or contact us online.