If an aging parent falls suddenly ill, develops dementia or becomes too infirm to competently manage his or her own affairs, the parent’s adult children or significant loved ones could face a number of challenging obstacles. This begins with ensuring the elder’s best interests are at the forefront of the decision-making process. One sure way to help a parent plan for any potential long-term care needs is to make sure he or she has a comprehensive Florida estate plan.
Unfortunately, if a crisis happens without estate planning in place, the family may be forced to file a court action to gain the ability to make these decisions. Guardianship is the Florida court process through which legal authority can be obtained over another who is found to be incapacitated. This process can be uncertain, expensive, and burdensome. These are complications your family does not need at a time when long-term care decisions need to be made quickly.
When your parent takes the time to create the legal documents ahead of a crisis, together you can eliminate much of the uncertainty. Let us share three essential estate planning documents that can help to ensure an aging parent’s needs can be properly met as he or she ages.
1. The Living Trust.
A Living Trust, also known as a Revocable Trust, is a legal document that puts an aging adult’s chosen assets into a trust for his or her benefit during life. When the creator of the trust passes away, a successor trustee will distribute the assets according to his or her wishes. An added benefit is that this trust can also outline how it should be managed if the elder parent is no longer able to manage his or her affairs. With this guidance, the successor trustee can seamlessly step in and manage the trust, should it become necessary. This continuity is a significant advantage and cannot be obtained through a standard will. Although a trust is not to be used for asset protection planning for public benefits programs such as Medicaid, it ensures the senior’s wishes can be carried out.
2. The Durable Power of Attorney.
This is a document that grants a designated adult child, or trusted confidant, the legal right to make decisions on behalf of the elder. A “durable” power of attorney is particularly important in Florida as this provision allows the document to survive mental incapacity. Through this document, the agent can take many actions that can positively impact the needs of the aging parent. This can include making long-term care decisions for the aging parent should the time come when it is necessary.
3. Health Care Advance Directive.
An Health Care Advance Directive or Health Care Surrogate is a document through which an adult child or other trusted individual can be designated to make medical decisions for an elder parent if he or she is incapable of making them. When we talk to our clients about this type of estate planning, we recommend our clients consider naming a back-up or second decision maker incase the first surrogate is unable, or unwilling, to act.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. The planning explained here is just the start of what we need to discuss when it comes to planning for you and your aging parents. Do not wait to contact our law firm to get started.