We all have our individually defined ‘space’ – how much we disclose about ourselves, our circumstances, our finances.
But there are situations that demand total disclosure!
Many of us are agents for our aging parents: parents who have kept everything ‘between themselves’ so as not to worry the children. Now you are faced with deciphering bank accounts and searching through stacks of documents in order to come up with a full financial snapshot to help your parents get the excellent level of care they deserve, and to protect what they have put away for their ‘rainy day.’
Your parents may be of advancing age, confused, and are in failing health. They are doing things that are dangerous to their health (leaving the stove on, not taking their medications, and not eating properly.) They also are not paying their bills, which is causing all kinds of problems. They may have never given you power of attorney, and they think things are “just fine”.
They are not. If you are concerned about your loved one’s safety but want to respect their dignity and rights of privacy, you cannot just sit there and watch this train wreck happen. What can you do?
Your situation is common to many families throughout Connecticut and the country, balancing the rights of your Mom and Dad while being concerned about their safety.
If Mom and Dad do not have and will not sign a power of attorney, health care representative and living will, your hands may be forced. If your parents truly are a safety risk, our Probate courts and conservatorship process exists to help families.
How do you start these conversations? One topic of conversation might be planning for and applying for public benefits. Let’s be honest: it feels like an invasion of privacy. And with good reason – the government expects us to provide for ourselves with what we have before we start asking for assistance.
Many of us have the perception that ‘those that have’ will not qualify for assistance and; have to spend everything before they qualify. This is not exactly true. Yes, you do need to meet the established asset and income guidelines, but there are numerous ways to protect your hard-earned nest egg for your spouse and heirs.
In order to begin to protect those assets, you need to fully disclose your total financial worth. Your Elder Law Attorney needs all the information in order to effectively plan for your future, and to develop a plan to protect your assets from taxes, probate, and long term care expenses. This will prevent costly mistakes; and it is the beginning of damage control for transactions that may have already taken place.
How do you begin accumulating the necessary information? Start by gathering the basic financial paperwork, including deeds, vehicle titles, insurance policies (life, health, property, and long term care), annuity contracts, retirement plan (including IRA, 403B, Thrift Savings and 401K) statements and designations of beneficiaries., financial account statements, loan paperwork, prepaid burial arrangements, and income tax returns and records (including Forms W2 and 1099). Next, summarize this information on a financial statement. Your Elder Law Attorney will provide you and assist you with this statement.
Whether you’re doing long term planning for ‘just in case,’ applying for veterans benefits or long term care services covered by Medicaid, full disclosure is the only way to accomplish the goal.