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Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 04:59 AM   #1
 
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Aging parents - What to do?

I am sure this has been covered before, but yesterday
I attended an "Estate Planning Workshop". It was
3 hours and very well attended (free with lunch provided).

Obviously they were selling services, basically insurance
and trust prep. Overall though it was well done.

I went mostly to try to anticipate problems with my parents situation, and for myself to a lesser extent. My Dad
(87) handles all their finances and thinks he is knowledgeable. In fact, he knows very little about
any of this stuff and there is no point in me or anyone else talking to him. He thinks everything is all set
and he does not need to spend any time on it. I would
guess my parent's net worth at $200,000 (no debts). They have
no LTC insurance, but do have excellent supplemental
health insurance. Only a basic will naming my brother
and I as co-executors (we have not spoken in 3 years).
Being retired and nearby, I am the obvious go-to guy
if they need help. The way things are, I can see one
or both ending up in a nursing home, or with long term home care and going through the Medicare/Medicaid
spend-down to get them to the point where the
cost is covered. Maybe with such a small net worth
it's not a big deal. Half of the 200K is their house
which they could keep anyway.

Does anyone have any ideas about what I might be able
to do here, other than wait for the inevitable crisis?
Anybody been in a similar spot?

JG
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 05:12 AM   #2
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Sounds to me like there isn't much you can do, and there isn't much to worry about. If you can conveince them to update the will and do some estate planning, it would be a good thing simply to avoid disputes with your brother and try to stay out of probate. Other than that, the estate is so small that you don't need to worry about estate taxes.
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 05:40 AM   #3
 
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Hello brewer! Agree that relatively speaking there is not
much there to worry about. And I plan on helping all I can (not financially of course). From a selfish point of view, even their small estate (split with my brother)
is very important to us. You all know my ER story.
Wing and a prayer................The good news is they spend very little (depression mentality).

JG
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 06:44 AM   #4
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

JG, the only thing I can add to brew's comment is
to persuade your folks to give you power of attorney
for health care and finances. Also make sure you
are authorized to access their bank vault and
checking account. Your situation is one most of us face
sooner or later. It helps if you can take action without
legal hassle.

Cheers,

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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 07:04 AM   #5
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Do a web search for Medicaid Asset Protection Plan. MAPP tm. Based in Oregon. To get the detailed package costs money($187?) but you could do it yourself. It is highly dependant on family relationships (taking money out of the estate early) and the state of residence - ie different costs and recapture rules.
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 07:12 AM   #6
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Quote:
JG, the only thing I can add to brew's comment is
to persuade your folks to give you power of attorney
for health care and finances. Also make sure you
are authorized to access their bank vault and
checking account.

John,

I went through this with my parents. Mom had alzheimers. Although they had a living trust with me as successor trustee and I had power of attorney for both mom and dad, when dad began having difficulty handling their finances it took me 8 months until I had access to all bank accounts and mutual funds. Each bank and each fund wanted a copy of the trust, a copy of the power of attorney and in most cases their own form filled out and signature guraenteed.

Even though your situation sounds more simple I would urge you to make all the necessary arrangements to be able to carry out their financial transactions BEFORE a crisis occurs. Good luck.

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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 08:24 AM   #7
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Been there, done that. I agree with many comments by earlier writers. Here is what I did:

I found a lawyer that my parents were able to trust. In the course of vetting candidates I met with each and described what I felt were my parent's estate planning and family issues. I gave them the resumes of two suitable candidates and asked them to consider each or give me more names. You can 'gift' your parents the lawyer's fees if you think that is a thorn. I didn't need to do that after I asked my parents to assemble their papers after a medical crisis, they couldn't find them! The key is to find a lawyer who specializes in elder law that can communicate with your parents and they can trust.

Control, particularly for elderly men, is a BIG issue. They fear being 'put away', that the wife won't care for them. Talk about the fact that estate planning gives them control over their lives. Perhaps you can give them some good examples where people they know had a plan in place, or what happened that wasn't good for those who didn't. Have they ever needed to look after another family member or friend and what would have helped them do that?

Beyond that, there is little you can do except a Guardianship and/or a Conservatorship when their circumstances have hit a wall.

I understand the absent sibling issue. If possible you could discuss with him your concerns and see where he is on their situation. In my experience the absent sibling will do nothing but second guess whatever you do and suspect you of running off with their assets. I don't know if the law is still in effect, but in my former state of residence children could be held financially responsible for their parents if they are on state aid. $200,000 for a couple can evaporate very quickly if either needs long term care. (I am looking at my Mother's bill this month, it is $6,000 for room and board alone, + meds, + supplies, + phone, + tv. She has needed skilled care for 5 years) That is plenty of reason for good planning.
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 09:43 AM   #8
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

The power of attorney is a good idea. My father has been in the hospital/skilled nursing since August. My 2 sisters have power of attorney, and are able to transact business for our parents. Our mother did have to go to the bank with my oldest sister the first time, and tell the staff that she agreed to my sister having access. After that, my sister could write checks to pay all their bills. (She and her husband live in a house just behind our parents.) This is helpful, since our mother has trouble with financial matters.
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 09:45 AM   #9
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Quote:
...in my former state of residence children could be held financially responsible for their parents if they are on state aid.
What state?
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 10:55 AM   #10
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

My dad planned to "die broke" at 83... he is now 88 with a little money yet (less than $20k) living alone in an apartment on SS and medical assistance from the VA. All his friends are now dead and he is ready to depart also if it happens. My sister lives close and he has her as co-owner of his car and all accounts so there will be no probate concern when his time comes.

Mom is 83 and lives with my stepfather in their home. I am executor of their estate. I am to handle things for us kids - blended family - six kids. Mom is very private and has given me their wills but won't talk about finances - so I have little info on their situation other than that they are solvent, being kids from the depression. They handle most bills by cash with monthly envelopes. I am not aware of any plans for LTC. They have medicare without any supplementals.

Sounds typical to me...

JohnP
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 10:59 AM   #11
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Hey John:

One last note on this. Unclemick has usually excellent advice on investing, but I hope you don't take his advice on attempting to do this yourself.
Elder-Care attorneys are worth the price. I have had many friends that have been totally bailed out regarding this matter. (Hard thing to recommend, because I have never really trusted lawyers, but these guys do this day in and day out, and can save you a lot of grief in the long run. ). They are experienced in all the situations that may come into play.
This is no time to try and save a few bucks, by proving that the old adage "Acting as my own attorney shows that I had a fool for a client", is wrong.
Find yourself a good Elder-Care attorney, and he will advise you what to do to protect the assets that your parents have at this point.


Regards, Jarhead
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 11:21 AM   #12
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

For those of you who don't know: *Medicare only pays a few days of skilled nursing facility AFTER DISCHARGE FROM THE HOSPITAL. *So, if you break a hip you have about 2 weeks of skilled nursing care. *If the patient isn't making progress medically, or if they aren't cooperative, they go home or start paying for it themselves. *It doesn't matter that there is no one at home able to care for them.

One exception: palative hospice care for your last days.

Medicaid is available for indengent care for low-income low-asset disabled. *Finding a facility that you like that accepts new medicaid patients is not fun. Non-profit continuing care facilities that are well endowed often co-ordinate with medicaid when a resident has exausted their resources.

For the writer whose sister is co-owner of the Mother's car: *That is NOT WISE. *Unless Mom passes away she will still need her signature to sell the car. *The risk isn't worth the value of the car. *If that car is involved in an accident the sister's insurance could go up a bunde. *
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Not much.  But you could try these?
Old 12-09-2004, 11:46 AM   #13
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Not much.  But you could try these?

I hope your parents haven't seen that PBS documentary on Alzheimer's & spelling backwards.

The most you can do is to keep in touch. *That way if one of them goes through a sudden change (matter of weeks) you're able to see it before too much chaos ensues.

You could check your situation/planning by reading a library copy of "Elder Rage". *http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...010977-2463373 *This would be especially important if your Dad feels he has to "protect" your Mom by controlling access if her condition declines. *I'm not trying to suggest that your Dad is overcontrolling but apparently it's a common elder male issue. *(Just ask my mother-in-law...)

Another option might be asking your parents if they want to add your name to the safe deposit box and given your own key (or told the location of theirs). *That way you're authorized access as long as the bank isn't aware that incompetence/death has occurred.

If your parents have medical directives, they should ensure they're updated for HIPPA requirements. *If not the local medicos could refuse to give you access to their condition and their medical records.

If your parents are willing to enact durable powers of attorney, they should also check those with their bank & other financial institutions. *Many times the corporations insist on their own forms or special wording, and your parents will want to fix these bureaucratic CYA obstacles before you're trying to petition for guardianship.

I don't suppose your parents would be willing to make you a joint owner on their checking account. *They wouldn't have to give you any checks, and it would cut through a lot of red tape when they needed assistance with managing their financial paperwork.

A third option might be bill-paying notification. *The utility companies would contact you if a bill goes unpaid. *My grandfather had been deep into senile dementia for at least two years (probably four) before the landlord complained about two months' back rent. *The utility companies had been happily carrying him at 1.5%/month for 2-3 years. *For the same reason you might want to figure out how to check on tax returns and property-tax payments.

I'm not suggesting that you and your brother should feel the warm glow of reconciliation, but maybe you could discuss the situation with your parents' estate lawyer and *have him act as an intermediary to facilitate your working together. *I bet the lawyers have seen these situations once or twice...

And finally, if it's a good lunch, maybe your parents will attend the next workshop with you-- it's always a springboard for a lively discussion!
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 12:44 PM   #14
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Quote:
I don't suppose your parents would be willing to make you a joint owner on their checking account.
That is not the best option, however, the parents could make him an authorized signer. Joint ownership can cause family problems (seen that) when they pass away.
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 02:03 PM   #15
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Well, John, your Ayn Rand crap is coming home to roost.


Every man/woman for himself.

Mrs. Zipper's mother passed away this year, and if this was in the good old USA we'd all be bankrupt.

Thankfully we're Canadians.

We all know that the most health care expenses in life occur in the final year.

Mother-in-law Zipper had rheumatic fever as a child in England and had heart valve damage in the 1920's.

She emigrated to Canada in 1952 with Mrs. Zipper (3) and family.

Beginning in the 70's, she had valve replacements, and open heart surgeries, and lived to age 83.

She was indeed "the bionic woman"!

Modern medicine is indeed a miracle. Mrs. Zipper and her sisters treasured the final years of a remarkable woman.

Canada paid the bills.

A society is based on how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.

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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 02:42 PM   #16
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Quote:

it took me 8 months until I had access to all bank accounts and mutual funds. *Each bank and each fund wanted a copy of the trust, a copy of the power of attorney and in most cases their own form filled out and signature guraenteed. *
This is so true. When I took over my mothers finances in March of this year (from my brother, we're no longer speaking, so I understand that too) things were a mess. It has taken me until now to get things organized and access to her accounts. It takes at least 2 phone calls and a letter to get any one thing accomplished. It doesn't help that she's in Ohio and I'm in Arizona. On-line banking has been a life-saver. In our family finances were not polite conversation so my parents were never interested in discussing things until it was almost too late. I was able to convince them to get an attorney and update their will and have POA in place. At the minimum that's what you need. Discuss life support/code status. Would they want to have full-on resuscitative efforts? It's best to know what they would want before you are pu in that situation and decisions don't seem as clear-cut and the responsibility is huge. Find out what accounts, life-insurance policies, funeral plans/pre-pays, health insurance, Rx coverage they have, if you can. Nords' suggestion for utility notification was good. Are there programs for assistance with elderly utility payment in their area if needed? Meals on wheels, what homecare is available? Pay someone to give you the straight facts on Medicare/Medicaid in your state. Each state can be very different. YOur area Council on Aging (or something similar) may be helpful in finding someone. Social workers who work with the elderly are a wealth of information because they deal with the paperwork and coding issues daily. There are many programs availabe, you just have to know about them. Don't know if your parents share your Randian philosophy, but without many of the programs that are in place, many more people would be subsisting on cat-food, no heat in the winter and halving their Rxs.

The worrisome part of this is, I've been in healthcare for over 25 years and this has all been a somewhat confusing maze. I can't imagine what someone who is alone and elderly and not healthy does.

This is lengthy but my crusade has been to all my friends to get involved, or at least acquainted if at all possible, with your parents business.

Good Luck,
Judy
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 02:57 PM   #17
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

To put it bluntly - research your state rules in these areas - BEFORE - you go near an attorney - I did and found it immensely helpful in asking the right questions when I did consult one. That said - the emotional issues(loss of control, etc) often overwhelm straightforward common sense. Use any and all sources mentioned in previous posts. Bottom line - to qualify for Medicaid - stuff has to come out of the estate in such a manner as to avoid triggering look back provisions.
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-09-2004, 03:10 PM   #18
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

I think this is a good topic for all of us to consider. We may be currently discussing our elderly parents, but how many of us have our own affairs in order. I, myself, have done some of this, i.e. wills, medical directives, benificiaries on accounts, but I have yet to establish a trust.

Both of my parents have passed away. I handled my father's estate, along with an excellent AV rated attorney and superior CPA firm. I have 2 brothers: one a SOB who only came around cuz dad was dying and another one who was no help at all. It was a very complicated estate.

Maybe the first of the year would be a good time to set aside for my own estate planning.

LovesLife
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-10-2004, 04:24 AM   #19
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

JG,

No matter how you slice it you're in a thankless if not tough spot.

Most trusts will have a 60 month look-back period before its assets are untouchable by the state. At your parents age 5 years could be forever.

The house is another matter. Here is what my father-in-law did. He and my wife went to an attorney and had the house deeded over to my wife with the stipulation that he could live there for the rest of his days. Dad, the controlling type kept his independence by looking after the place and even continued to pay the usual expenses. Along the way he added my wife's name to accounts. He died at home 5 years later just the way he wanted to. The key was that he became compliant.

Mom and/or Dad need to attend the next seminar with you. Explain that your concern is that their interests are protected as their ability declines. Explain that being in control is making those estate planning decisions before the state does it for them. It is overwhelming for them so go slow. If your talking to brick walls, demonstrate your resolve by bringing documents to the table for their signature. Let them know when the next seminar is and that you'll be picking them up. If all fails you will know that you've done your best.

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Re: Aging parents - What to do?
Old 12-10-2004, 07:47 AM   #20
 
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Re: Aging parents - What to do?

Well, thanks everyone. I am kind of
overwhelmed by all of the input. Much appreciated.

I have had a brief meeting with an experienced
"ekder issues" attorney, in addition to the seminar
I mentioned earlier. The point made about this being
kind of too much to deal with for older folks is right on.

I am positive that my parents (Dad especially)
would not agree to go anywhere to get educated.
Remember, my Dad thinks he has taken care of all of this. My chances of making him see there is a problem
and then getting him to fix it are near zero. Plus, I don't want to damage my relationship with my Dad.
There is enough turmoil in the family already.

The will says that if my Dad dies, everything goes to my
mother and vice versa, with my brother and I as
co-executors of the estate as I mentioned. As a practical matter,
I think I should wait until one of them is gone before
plunging into this. I can't see that doing any financial
damage as the survivor will still have all the assets.
Honestly, I think some kind of crisis will be needed
before I can involve myself in any significant way.

Any thoughts on this approach? Thanks again.

JG

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