Monday, August 25, 2014

Don't be my latest client. Mom had a stroke about ten years ago. She developed dementia about five years ago. Dad took care of mom at home, and had a stroke a few days ago. Dad's speech is affected, and his use of his right side has been affected. Dad has been moved to a long term care facility, and mom has been moved with him since she is not able to live alone. Dad is not improving since his stroke. They have no powers of attorney, no healthcare power of attorney, no living wills, and no Wills. There may be a rift in the family and I anticipate difficulty with children who do not live locally. A son does live locally and is trying to take care of mom and dad and their finances, but is very limited because of the lack of authority (i.e., no POAs and no healthcare POAs). Unfortunately, my prognosis is an eventual guardianship for mom.

If these clients had come to see me when mom had her stroke, or about the time mom's dementia was first diagnosed, we could have created POAs, healthcare POAs, living wills, and Wills for them; and perhaps a Medicaid Trust would have been indicated for them. Now, for mom certainly, none of that seems to be possible.

There is a house and it is very foreseeable the house may have to be sold to provide cash to pay for parents' care. Because the house is owned by mom and dad as "tenants in common" (i.e., each owns an undivided 1/2 interest), and because mom cannot sign and has no POA, it will be possible to sell the house only by creating a guardianship for mom and filing a statutory lawsuit commonly known as a "land sale proceeding." It will be expensive; the family will not be happy; and there is no opportunity to do any planning to preserve assets to maintain as high a standard of living as possible for parents.

Don't be these clients. Estate planning is for life issues as well as death, and should be undertaken early. Do not wait for the bad event that renders you incompetent. It will be too late.

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