A partnership between local law enforcement, seniors and senior service providers
When it comes to planning for your later years, it’s all about who you trust. That’s the message sent by Roy Bredder, a local attorney specializing in elder law, when he spoke to the Triad at its Oct. 28 meeting in Heathsville.
A true story: a woman in her late 70s had a business relationship with a financial advisor for 10 years. He got her to provide him a personal loan of $450,000. Then he absconded with an additional $300,000. Recently he pled guilty to over $1 million in fraud … but the woman got nothing back. That’s why Triad, and getting to know your neighbors, is so important, Roy said.
Incapacity planning. The point, he said, is to assure that our affairs will be managed by those we want in the way we want. Without the right documents, the family has to go to court to get guardianship – that’s financially expensive and emotionally difficult, but it’s easy to avoid with powers of attorney and a living will, provided you appoint trustworthy people.
A financial power of attorney names someone to handle your financial affairs. But remember: it’s only as good as what it authorizes, and that has to be spelled out in detail. Roy suggested going to an attorney instead of relying on online forms, which may not have sufficient detail.
But the most important thing is who you name, he emphasized. The woman in Roy’s story had her financial advisor as her agent – and clearly he wasn’t totally trustworthy. The agent has to be capable of doing what’s necessary, and willing to do it. Often people name a spouse or children, but think about whether they’re really the right person, he advised.
A durable health care power of attorney is also vital. If you can’t make medical decisions, you give that authority to another person. Naming the right person is even more important here: they may be looking at end of life decisions, extraordinarily difficult medical decisions. Someone you name must be willing to make what might be an ultimate decision, and you want them to follow your views, regardless of their personal views.
A living will explains what you want to have happen if you’re incapacitated and in a terminal condition: whether or not you want life support. It becomes an instruction to your agent and to physicians.
Planning for your death. Everyone has a plan for what happens with their assets when they pass away – a trust or will, for example. If you do nothing, the state of Virginia has a plan for you, Roy said. It will try to leave assets to those in closest relationship to you. But it doesn’t provide for leaving something to a favorite charity, or for not leaving anything to a particular child, or providing more to a handicapped child who may need special arrangements.
Having a will does not avoid probate. A revocable living trust, however, does. It’s also a private document, Roy said, while a will is publicly available at the courthouse. A trust also lets you give specific instructions about handling your assets. Roy doesn’t recommend using an online form to set up a trust, either—everyone’s situation is different, just as a trust may or may not be appropriate in a given situation.
Medicaid. Roy also went into some detail about Medicaid, and when and how it can be used for paying for nursing home care. Eligibility rules are complex, however.