It may seem premature to plan for long-term care for yourself or a loved one when there are no major health issues or before arriving at an advanced age. Sadly, though, we have seen how health problems often take people by surprise… as does the passage of time. Being prepared with the proper legal documents before it’s time to transition to long-term care reduces costs and stress and makes an already difficult time more manageable.
Important decisions around finances and health care require legal documentation. Creating these in advance helps ensure that yours or your loved one’s wishes regarding assets, guardianships, health care, and end-of-life care are carried out. There are many options for long-term care available, from types of facilities to in-home services. Making and documenting decisions about future care allows for a smoother transition and ensures that trusted people have the proper decision-making rights to manage yours or a loved one’s affairs.
Here are three documents to prepare now to be ready for long-term care later:
- Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs: A durable power of attorney allows you (“principal”) to appoint a person (your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”) to act in your place for financial purposes. This person can act on your behalf and make decisions about things such as real estate transactions, banking/financial transactions, or legal matters. Because the principal must have the capacity to execute the power of attorney, it is important to not delay drafting this document. Should you or your loved one become incapacitated without executing power of attorney, a guardian may have to be appointed.
- Advance Health Care Directive: Also known as a Living Will, this document is similar to a power of attorney, wherein an agent is appointed to make decisions about your health care should you not be able to communicate that information for yourself. Your designated health care agent can communicate with health care professionals on your behalf and make decisions regarding matters such as end-of-life decisions, organ donation, or release of medical records.
- Revocable or “Living” Trust: Should you become unable to manage your assets during your lifetime as a result of illness, disability or some other reason, a revocable or living trust ensures your assets are managed consistently with your wishes. It provides you a way to continue managing your property while you can, and authorizes a trustee to do so on your behalf should you become incapacitated. The trust would outline your wishes regarding how your assets are to be managed, especially if you are in a long-term care facility, and how they are to be transferred upon death.
Families have many considerations for long-term care options. We encourage you to contact us to discuss how to ensure your or a loved one’s wishes about long-term care are met. Please call us at 856.782.8450 to schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney.