On today's show, we discuss a topic that many of us will deal with from multiple angles: caring for elderly family members. Many baby boomers who are transitioning into retirement have also become caregivers for their parents or older relatives. At the same time, these retirees may be beginning to talk to their children or grandchildren about some estate planning basics and how they want to be cared for if they start to experience a decline later in life.
These are some of the most challenging decisions to make and some of the hardest conversations to have. But making a plan while you and the people you're caring for are still healthy and opening up about your wishes with loved ones can make the tough times we all experience in life a little bit easier down the road.
Here's a quick overview of the checklist-driven process we use at Keen Wealth to help folks at every stage of these transitions care for elderly family members.
1. What is the financial situation?
In order to make sure that elderly family members are getting the best care possible, we need to start by understanding what that senior's financial situation is.
We might work with folks to create a balance sheet so that we have a clear picture of this person's savings, investments, and income sources in retirement versus any debt they're carrying on things like their home, vehicles, or credit accounts. From there, we typically review this person's monthly budget and, crucially, their health care coverage. In most cases, that means Medicare, but older folks near the end of their lives may have tapped out enough of their nest eggs to qualify for Medicaid as well. Some seniors might also have plans for long-term care to cover things like in-home nursing or an assisted living facility.
2. Is there a formal estate plan in place?
Next, we want to make sure that your elderly relative has these estate planning basics covered:
• Last Will and Testament outlining your relative's last wishes and explaining how they want their estate to be distributed to heirs and any other beneficiaries, such as charitable organizations.
• Power of Attorney authorizing someone to act on your relative's behalf while they’re still alive in the event that they are incapacitated or unable to make decisions.
• Healthcare Directive dictating how your relative would like to be cared for if they become incapacitated.
• Living Will designating someone to be in charge of making important medical choices on your relative's behalf if they are unable to.
Some folks might also have a Trust, which is a fiduciary agreement whereby a third-party trustee holds and manages your assets for designated beneficiaries under certain conditions.
If your relative is still in good mental health, we'd also want to discuss if their estate plan reflects their current wishes and if they’d like to make any updates, especially as far as beneficiaries are concerned.
We'd also hope that working through these documents with your elderly relative would inspire some self-reflection on your estate plan and spark conversations with your younger relatives about getting their affairs in order. If you pass unexpectedly and you don't have a formal estate plan in place, then your estate will be settled by the laws of your state of residence. Make the tough decisions now so the courts don't make them for you after you’re gone.
3. Who is the trusted contact?
A trusted contact is a person listed on your elderly relative's accounts whom an advisor or other financial officer will contact if your relative is unreachable or if there is suspicion of mental decline or elder abuse.
Hypothetically, if a 90-year-old client started calling our office asking their advisor to withdraw unusual sums of money, or if they changed phone numbers and forgot to tell us, we'd get in touch with their trusted contact to make sure that they are OK.
The trusted contact typically doesn't have the power to make any changes to an account or take any action. They are more of an "emergency contact" for your elderly relative's finances. If there is an issue with mental decline, or if someone in your relative's life is trying to take advantage of them, the trusted contact would then need to get in touch with the person who has power of attorney and, potentially, their relative's legal team.
4. Has the family had a meeting?
The decisions that we discuss on today's episode only become more complicated if an elderly relative experiences a sudden health crisis, incapacitation, or a severe onset of a cognitive condition like Alzheimer's or Dementia. That's why it's so important for folks to establish their estate plans and talk to their loved ones about how they want to be cared for while they still have a voice. And suppose you're part of a support network for an elderly relative who no longer can speak for themself. In that case, it's essential to have open, ongoing, and honest conversations with your family about the next steps.
At Keen Wealth, we consider it a true honor to help folks transition through these difficult moments. Our comprehensive planning process covers everything from thinking through estate plans to facilitating family meetings so that, when the time comes, folks get the care they need and their legacies are honored. Call our offices and let's talk about what challenges your elderly relatives are facing and what we can do to enhance their care, comfort, and dignity throughout their retirement and yours.
Bill Keen is a financial advisor with nearly 30 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he focuses on providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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