May is National Elder Law Month, as designated by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. It is a way to acknowledge the profession that supports seniors and their families with all of their planning needs. And while that sounds interesting, many people still ask, “What do elder law attorneys do?” In Part 2 of this series, “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys,” we will discuss additional ways elder law attorneys help seniors and their families.
It’s what’s known as “solo aging,” a term for what happens when a senior has no children or younger family members to help them as they get older.
There was a time when getting older meant going to live in a nursing facility or moving in with younger family members who could help tend to a senior’s needs.
But your work doesn’t stop there. Your will might address questions about what happens to your assets after your death, but it doesn’t do everything.
This is why you should have an estate plan that includes things such as a living will, power of attorney and health care power of attorney to ensure that you can still meet your medical and financial needs if you ever become incapacitated.
May is National Elder Law Month, as designated by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. It is a way to acknowledge the profession that supports seniors and their families with all of their planning needs. And while that sounds great, many people still ask, “What do elder law attorneys do?” Part 1 of this series, “Why May is Special for Elder Law Attorneys” will explore several ways elder law attorneys help seniors and their loved ones.
Read up on retirement planning in America, and you come across some pretty startling statistics:
- One in three Americans have no retirement savings. The same number of people say they expect to work in retirement to supplement their income
- More than 40 percent of single seniors over 65 get at least 90 percent of their income from Social Security
- Even healthy couples will pay close to $400,000 on health care in retirement
With all that in mind, it becomes painfully apparent how important it is to plan for retirement, yet it’s a process that many people aren’t even sure how to approach.
With that in mind, we’d like to suggest some questions you should ask to help start putting together your retirement plan.
When planning for your loved ones’ future, you may consider creating a trust to protect assets set aside for them. If you create a trust, you will need a reliable and trustworthy person to name as the trustee who will manage the trust. Choosing the correct trustee is an important decision because he or she will be responsible for carrying out your wishes when managing the trust.
The trustee will be responsible for duties such as managing investments, paying bills, preparing tax returns, and managing other accounts within the trust.
Before choosing a trustee, consider the following points that will help you determine who will be best suited for the role.
1. A trustee must be over the age of eighteen and capable of managing his or her own affairs successfully.
2. The trustee should be completely trustworthy and committed to the beneficiary’s best interests.
3. The trustee should be able to make sound judgments and have a strong understanding of his or her duties as the trustee. While not required, legal or financial expertise is valuable.
4. If a person is going to be the trustee of a special needs trust, knowledge of public benefits and how to avoid invalidating these benefits is beneficial.
5. The trustee should be someone who is healthy and will be able to continue managing your trust for many years to come.
6. A trustee should have the time to devote to managing your trust effectively. If the person you are considering is very busy, you should consider other candidates before making your final choice.
7. If you don’t know someone who would be a suitable trustee, consider hiring a professional trustee or institution to manage your trust. Professional trustees may include a trust company, accountant, lawyer, or investment manager or advisor. However, professional trustees or institutions do charge a fee or percentage to manage your trust.
8. Consider co-trustees if you would like to have a trusted friend or family member and a professional trustee manage your trust together.
9. Understand your family dynamics when selecting a trustee. If you are choosing a family member to be the trustee, try to avoid conflicts between family members and explain to other relatives why you have chosen a particular person to be the trustee.
10. If you make a relative or friend your trustee, decide who will be the successor in the event that the person is no longer able to manage your trust.
After you have chosen a trustee, it is advisable to reexamine your choice every few years to ensure that your trustee is still the best choice for your needs. If circumstances change, you may need to assign a different trustee who is better suited to the required responsibilities.
The mid to later part of the 20th century has given us many inventions, from the computer to the iPod and much more. Of course, it’s the “much more” that is cluttering up homes across the country. From old LPs to books that have never been read, we all have items that are taking up space in our homes. It is especially true for the seniors. Many have lived through times of scarcity and feel that they should hang on to items, no matter their level of usefulness. Others have mobility and cognitive issues to deal with and have trouble deciding what to keep and what to get rid of.
What compels people to keep things? Often there are memories attached to many things. Gifts from friends who have since died, pictures of family members from years gone by, letters from past lovers are a part of a person’s life. Then there is hope, as in, “I hope to lose weight, I hope to get time to read those books, I hope to pick up that hobby again.” Then there is not wanting to be wasteful, as in “I may need that plastic container one day.” Never mind the fact that there are 23 plastic containers in the kitchen, some of which don’t have lids.
So, how do you conquer the clutter? The short answer is one item at a time. The long answer is that you need to talk to your children or grandchildren about clearing out the house. This talk will be easier if a move to smaller quarters or to an assisted living facility is being planned, since you know that you can’t bring everything to the new place.
Once you are on board with decluttering how do you get started?
One Room, One Closet or One Drawer at a Time
Since it can be overwhelming to get rid of years and years of accumulated belongings, it is best to start with one room, such as the bedroom or the kitchen. Go through a drawer or closet until you have cleared out all the items that are in the way of the things you use more often. Throw away what isn’t useful and set aside the rest. Do the same with the next drawer or the next part of the room.
Set aside some items to give away or sell
Invariably, you will come across something that you don’t want to give to a thrift store or throw out. Maybe a grandchild, a friend or adult child would like it. Or you feel that you could make some money selling the item either online or at a yard sale. Take this opportunity to ask friends and family members if anyone wants the antique gravy boat or salt and pepper shakers from Disneyland. Give away the items that people want, sell whatever remains that can be sold, and what’s left can go to a thrift store. Most thrift stores will pick up from your home, so you just need to schedule a pick up date and time and let them know how much “stuff” you have to donate.
Leave a Giveaway Box
Despite your best efforts to tackle clutter, new things become old things that become relegated to closets and drawers. Having a giveaway box nearby will help keep the clutter from getting out of hand. When you find something that needs to go, put it in the box. When the box is full, take it to a thrift store or sell the items, so that someone will put the items you no longer need to good use.
Since one person’s “junk” may be another person’s treasure, the best way for someone to find that treasure is get rid of your junk.
You finally broke free from the 9 to 5 grind and now retirement isn’t what you thought it would be and you are bored, very bored. Or maybe you are the son, daughter, spouse of a retiree and you see that person aimlessly watching television for hours at a time. What can be done to alleviate this problem? Here are some suggestions.
When we think of the term “guardianship,” we typically picture someone tasked with caring for a child.
But what happens when an adult needs a guardian? It’s the type of question an elder law attorney in Bucks County is often asked.
So, let’s look at why an adult – especially a senior citizen – might need a guardian – and what that person’s duties could entail.
Why are guardians necessary?
Guardians are appointed when someone is no longer able to communicate their decisions or receive and decipher information.
For many seniors, there will come a time where they cannot live at home by themselves anymore. Some will be able to move in with adult children, others may move into an assisted living facility, personal care facility or nursing home. While these options provide security and care, they also result in a loss of independence and choice. Granted, you can’t have everything that you want and as we age, we have to deal with health issues. Still, if you are of sound mind and in good health, there may be other options available to you.