As more and more of our society become seniors, caring for an elderly loved one is becoming a challenge in more of our lives. The simple truth is that there is no easy way to ensure a smooth management of their care and financial well being. Every single person is surrounded by a complex series of factors that can lead to potential problems, such as financial elder abuse. There are a few key rules to follow that can help here, however:
1. Talk to an attorney early and often. This may seem self-serving, but litigation arises from vagueness. There may come a time when the intent of an elderly person is difficult to divine, be it due to incapacity or death. In those instances, people look to written documents to follow their intent. If the elderly person has clear and specific instructions in a written document, the clarity will help guide the care. There will not be litigation surrounding issues such as who should manage the care or how best to manage the care. An attorney will know which issues need to have specific language and can appropriately develop that language with the elderly person. I specialize in Estate Planning and Elder Law in Walnut Creek and the surrounding areas, but I recommend finding an attorney who is local to your area.
2. Get regular mental health check ups. Most people imagine those with dementia to be elderly persons who think it is still 1905 and President Eisenhower is about to take us all to the moon. The reality is that people struggling with mental health illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, can often appear to be entirely mentally competent, and symptoms can develop as early as 50. They can appear able to make informed decisions regarding their medical and financial affairs. This can be problematic, because if they are not really able to make these decisions, then they may fail to get the appropriate medical care, or can be susceptible to undue influence. It is helpful to know about these illnesses in the early stages so that family can step up to the plate to assist. It is always easier (and cheaper) to avoid future problems instead of cleaning up past problems.
3. Communicate. Communicate communicate communicate. Then, when you are done there communicate some more! There are so many times that an aggrieved family member comes to my office, spinning a yarn about inappropriate actions, but with an unclear amount of veracity. Thousands of dollars worth of lawsuits and investigations later, we determine that there was merely a lack of trust and a lack of communication, but nothing genuinely bad was occurring. When there is a lack of trust and a lack of communication, seemingly minor things can metastisize into HISTORY’S GREATEST MONSTER. Save yourself the thousands of dollars worth of attorney’s fees (or maybe not…) and just try to talk it out first.
If you have any legal questions regarding planning for the care of a loved one in your family, I offer a free 30 minute consultation at my Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm in Walnut Creek, CA. Call 925-322-1763 or email firstname.lastname@example.org