2011-02-11 / Columnists

Spotlight on Elderlaw

Planning For Aging Family Members
Commentary By Nancy C. Brady, RN, Esq. And Linda Faith Marshak, Esq.

Everyone has an idea of how he/she would like to spend his/her golden years – in good health, socializing with friends, spending wonderful holidays with children and grandchildren, perhaps spending part of the year in a warmer climate playing golf, or sunning on a beautiful beach. As hardworking New Yorkers, don’t we deserve all that after a lifetime of working hard and saving? Hopefully, we can all live out the scenario described above.

Whether we are fortunate enough to have good health and adequate finances to reach these goals, or whether we encounter some obstacle in the path toward a happy, healthy “golden” age, taking steps to prepare for the future should be the highest priority for you and your family. This message is being sent to us lately on a regular basis; last week there was a series on ABC NEWS World News Tonight, with Diane Sawyer, called “Families on the Brink: What To Do About Mom and Dad?”. The New York Times has a “New-Old Age Blog” – which addresses issues facing the elderly. - The message is clear – with people living longer lives, with greater frequency, the elderly will need some type of assistance in the future. The type of assistance one will need will vary, obviously, from person to person – perhaps simple assistance of a family member with bill paying, assistance with getting to appointments for elderly who can no longer drive or get out in inclement weather, to those needing assistance with their physical needs – from either family members or from health care providers.

The recurring message in any article or program about planning for aging loved ones is to PLAN AHEAD. As we have written before in this column, it is important for everyone to have at least the basic estate planning documents in place, and updated regularly, especially in the event of major life changes.

Consultation and completion of these documents by an attorney is time, effort and money well spent, because countless dollars can be saved in probate costs, long term care costs and in some cases taxes.

A Last Will and Testament should be in place as early as possible - to have clear documentation of one’s wishes, and avoid any misunderstanding or confusion after a loved one passes away.

A Power of Attorney and Statutory Gifts Rider - this document was revised in 2009 and again in 2010, and needs to be completed within the guidelines of the New York State legislation. Legislative changes to the form were enacted in order to protect against fraud and abuse. Without a valid Power of Attorney in place, if an individual needed assistance with financial matters, a court procedure may be required to enable someone to act as guardian. This can easily be avoided by visiting an attorney and having the proper forms drafted and executed.

A Health Care Proxy - in New York, in the absence of a validly executed health care proxy, under recent changes to the law, certain persons (in order of priority under the law) can make health care decisions.

We recommend that individuals discuss their wishes regarding medical care, and appoint the person of their choice to make those decisions.

Planning beyond these basics involves a review of an individual’s financial circumstances, family tree information, and discussing goals and objectives for his or her future. When clients have a life change and come back to us after planning has been done in advance, they are always relieved to have options available to them as the result of good planning! The attorneys can be reached at 718- 945-7777 or 718-738-8500.

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