Elder law attorney answers common questions
Question: My parents live in another state and their health and assets are both declining. My spouse and I are thinking about bringing them here to live with us.
Is this a good idea?
From an elder law attorney perspective, this question raises many other questions which need to be addressed by all involved before moving forward.
First, how do your parents feel about relocation? Will you need to renovate or add on to your current home to have an appropriate living space for your parents? If so, who will pay what for this?
Do your parents need assistance with activities of daily living? If so, who will provide? Who will pay?
What about social activities for your parents? How will they make friends? What will they do with their days? What about new doctors? Travel to appointments, church, senior center?
Are your siblings on board with this plan? Will they be willing to help out to give you respite? What if your job changes? Or you wish to move? Or your own immediate family situation changes (illness, divorce)?
I recommend you and your parents and even your siblings consult with an elder law attorney before committing so you can explore the possibilities and make appropriate financial and legal decisions and so all parties have a clear understanding from the very beginning.
The more carefully you prepare for such a move, the more likely it will be beneficial for all involved.
Question: My husband and I are in our early 70s and our children think we should add their names to our house so the state won't take it if one of us goes into a nursing home.
Is this a good idea?
While some couples have done this and all works out well for them, it is important to understand the risks you are taking.
Life presents risks for all of us daily. We may have a catastrophic accident, lose a job, become ill, have creditor problems, get divorced or even suffer premature death.
If you are contemplating such a property transfer, you must scrutinize your children's lives to determine if you would rather substitute their risks for your own.
How likely is it you and your spouse will divorce now? Suffer job loss? Have creditor problems?
The primary risk to older couples is the need for chronic long-term care.
Even if that occurred for one spouse, the "well" spouse would keep the house.
It would always available as long as at least one of the parents would be able to live there.
Sometimes the house also represents a primary "nest egg" which would help pay for at home care or even assisted living.
Please consult a certified elder law attorney to help weigh the pros and cons before making such an important decision.
Question: Will the state pay for assisted living or a live-in caregiver if my money runs out?
While Medicaid is available in some states to pay such expenses, in Connecticut, we still do not have such a program.
It is counter-intuitive to think the state will require you to move to an expensive nursing home rather than pay less money to allow you to obtain care in the community.
The Connecticut Commission on Aging has reported the cost of community care is $41,735 less per year than institutional care.
In this election year, it is important you listen to what the candidates say about their ideas for funding of community-based choices and options and let them know the choice to stay in the community is important to you.
Question: My husband and I have three young children and we want to make wills but we disagree over who should have custody of our children if something happens to us.
How can we solve this problem?
Many people put off making wills or updating documents because there are such difficult decisions to make.
But the harder the decisions are for you to make, the more important it is for you to do so. If you can't decide who will raise your children if something happens to you, what would happen if the need arises?
Will your families be in court fighting over custody and letting a judge who has no personal connection to your family make the most crucial decision for your children?
You and your husband need to realize no one will raise your children exactly as you would do but you at least know the people involved in your family's life and are in a better position to make that decision than a judge who knows no one in your family.
Remember, too, the choice is not irrevocable.
You may feel comfortable with one person now but in five years, the situation could change and you would prefer someone else.
If you are thinking of choosing a parent, please consider the impact on your parent's life and the practicalities of raising young children at an advanced age.
Question: My wife finally convinced me to make an appointment with an elder law attorney but now the attorney wants all kinds of information about our assets, income, children.
Why does she need all this?
Each person's situation is different.
What happens to your neighbors or your relatives is not necessarily what will happen to you.
In order to effectively and intelligently give advice to you and your wife, an attorney must know the details of your situation.
Are your current documents appropriate for you? What kind of plan do you have for illness or incapacity? Is it realistic, practical, right for your situation?
How will you meet the financial demands of chronic long term care needs should they arise? Should you consider making any transfers of assets now?
These are all issues you should expect will arise in a consultation with an elder law attorney.
In order to get the best advice, prepare properly.
Barbara W. Reynolds, Esq, is a principal of Barbara W. Reynolds, LLC in New Milford. She was recently selected as a Super Lawyer for 2010 for the fourth consecutive year by her peers in Connecticut.