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Vail Daily column: What’s your aging plan?

Judson Haims

This is the second part of a two-part series detailing the importance of establishing an open communication with our aging loved ones.

Last week, I ended Tuesday’s article addressing the importance of having some sort of trust in place to assist with the many facets of end-of-life planning. While a trust may play an important part in developing a comprehensive end-of-life plan for our loved ones and heirs, it is just one of a number of pieces that need to be addressed.

Even if you feel that your family doesn’t have enough assets to make pre-planning worthwhile, having key decisions already made and agreed upon can prove to be a great comfort. There are many organizations that are available to assist families navigate this subject. AARP, The Department of Elder Affairs (located in each state), National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, National Care Planning Council and the American Academy of Family Physicians all great resources.

Proper and timely estate planning can really help during a time of family crisis. Pre-planning will greatly assist family members and loved ones to know what medical efforts your ill family member(s) would want. Further, having the proper documents in order will provide the you and your family the legal means to carry out those wishes.

There are many lists provided by numerous organizations that can help educate you through the process of assisting your aging loved one’s get their aging plan process started. The choice to be diligent in researching this subject matter is quite personal. However, if you choose to do just the minimal, I implore you to at the very least, do the following.

Power of Attorney

One of the first steps you may need to take when assisting your aging love one is to request of them that they provide you both power of attorney and a durable power of attorney. They are not one in the same. You can go online or ask an attorney to explain the differences however; here is the gist as provided by the American Institute of American CPAs:

“A power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes someone to act for you. You name someone known as an agent or attorney-in-fact (though the person need not be an attorney) who steps into your shoes, legally speaking. You can authorize your agent to do such things as sign checks and tax returns, enter into contracts, buy or sell real estate, deposit or withdraw funds, run a business or anything else you do for yourself.”

“A durable power of attorney serves the same function as a power of attorney. However, as its name implies, the agency relationship remains effective even if you become incapacitated. This makes the durable power of attorney an important estate planning tool. If incapacity should strike you, then your agent can maintain your financial affairs until you are again able to do so, without any need for court involvement.” A facet of this should be a document called advanced directives. Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to spell out your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time.

Another less known about law has come to my attention that may pose considerable impact on family members of the ill and incapacitated is filial responsibility laws. Forbes magazine had an article last year that explained what this law is and in what states it may affect people. Here is a excerpt from the article:

“Imagine this: One day you’re sifting through your mail. In the pile of letters, bills and junk mail, you find a letter from a law firm informing you that you need to pay $50,000 to cover the cost of your father’s recent nursing home stay, or the care facility will sue you.

“While this may seem farfetched, depending on your parents’ state of residence, this could be a possibility.

“If your parents live in one of 29 states or Puerto Rico that has filial responsibility laws on the books, you could potentially be held legally responsible for their care under certain circumstances… Until recently, these statutes have been largely ignored. However, several recent court decisions indicate that there might be renewed interest in enforcing them”.

This article is not intended as legal or tax advice. It is intended as educational information and must not be used as a basis for legal or tax advice. I strongly suggest consulting legal advice from specialist.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.


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