Spotlight on NJ Elder Law: What Families Really Need to Know Before a Crisis Occurs

Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., NJ Elder Law Attorney
 
Often times when I meet with new clients, the first appointment is not with the parent(s) but with the children.  Commonly, they come to us after or during a crisis, such as a parent’s hospital or nursing home stay.  Just as often they have little or no information about what is going on with the parent, medically and financially, and cannot provide much of the information we need to assist them.

Communication between parent and child before a crisis is so important and can provide peace of mind and reduce stress for both.  The following are some of the questions that families should discuss, which will often begin a dialogue about the type of preplanning parents can do before a crisis occurs.

1. Children should know roughly how much and where their parents’ assets are.  Do they have enough to sustain the healthy spouse should one spouse become ill and need extended hospitalization and/or nursing home care?

2. What does the income picture look like?  If one spouse dies, how much income will the surviving spouse be left with?  Will there be a significant drop in income?  Often time’s steps can be taken before that spouse passes to help boost the surviving spouse’s income.

3. Is financial support anticipated?  People are living longer than ever.  Many people are at risk of outliving their money.   Answering this question means not simply looking at current expenses vs. income but looking at the next step in the elder care journey and the next step after that and asking “Do I have enough to pay for long term care and if so, for how long?  And if not, what is my plan then?

4. What types of insurance are there (ie., health, long term care, life)?  Is coverage adequate? If not, can coverage be increased?  You certainly want to do that before you become uninsurable.

5. Are there a power of attorney and a health care directive and where are they?  Are they up to date or stale?  If these documents are not in place then the only alternative is a costly and time-consuming process called guardianship.  The court will be involved in your family’s affairs and you may not get the result you want.

6. Is there an up to date will?  A clear, thought out estate plan can avoid family squabbles after the parent passes away. Even people with small estates should have a will.  Also, make sure the original will can be located. Probating a copy is difficult and expensive.

For further information and advice in any elder law or estate planning matter, do not hesitate to contact me at 732-863-9900 Ext. 101 or 105, toll-free at 888-800-7442, or fniemann@hnlawfirm.com/.

Posted in Asset & Income Protection, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts.