When a loved one suffers a mental impairment, it is only a matter of time before they need help taking care of their own personal and financial affairs. Some of the common signs of diminished capacity include disorientation and memory loss. If you begin to see these signs, it may be time to consider taking steps to provide necessary care. It would be best, however, to make plans ahead of time. Whichever course you take, there will be many difficult issues ahead, but an experienced and qualified elder law attorney can help.
How to start the incapacity planning conversation with your loved one
The first step you should take, before actually starting the conversation, is to talk to all involved family members to make sure you are all on the same page. Resolve any misunderstandings or disputes ahead of time so that you can approach your loved one with a united front. Doing so should reduce the risk of putting that person on the defensive. This doesn’t mean the entire family needs to be involved in the conversation.
The planning is much easier if your parent still has some decision-making capacity. In that case, the next step is speaking to an experienced and qualified elder law attorney to discuss the elements of the estate or incapacity plan that need to be included. When there are several siblings, for the purposes of transparency, it is best to have all of the children participating in the discussions if at all possible.
The need to balance autonomy with safety
Balancing your parent’s need for independence with the need to keep them safe can be a very big challenge. How to approach this issue truly depends on the issues each family faces. In many cases, if a conservatorship is necessary or anticipated, the probability of losing independence can be overwhelming or disconcerting. As any experienced elder law attorney will tell you, a conservatorship should never be sought simply because a parent makes a decision that you do not understand or agree with. A conservatorship should not be sought based only on a particular disability or medical diagnosis.
Be sure to resolve family disputes, if possible
What happens when siblings or other involved family members disagree about a parent’s estate or incapacity planning? Unfortunately, some families fight every time they try to discuss what planning needs to be done. First, make sure everyone involved has all of the necessary facts. Some disputes arise simply because of miscommunication or misunderstandings. Those issues can be alleviated through clear communication. Getting an experienced and qualified elder law attorney involved can also help clarify the issues.
Make sure your parent doesn’t feel powerless
A common problem many clients mention is trying to get their parents to feel less like they are losing control. So, how do you keep your parents from feeling like everyone is taking over? There are two ways you can approach this dilemma. If your mother is still mentally intact, for instance, then you still have time to involve them in their own estate and incapacity planning.
How to deal with a loved one who is uncooperative
Unfortunately, some seniors are more unwilling to discuss their affairs than others, not to mention being unwilling to give up control of those affairs to someone else. The more you can accomplish with your parent while they are still legally competent the easier it will be. If you are worried about damaging family relationships, then some matters can be handled without involving your parent. On the other hand, if there are no other options, and your parent is no longer competent, then you will likely need to get the court involved and have a conservator appointed.
An Elder Law Attorney can provide the help and support you need
An elder law attorney typically handles issues regarding the elderly. These types of issues generally relate to nursing home care, estate planning, and conservatorships, for example. Elder law attorneys receive specific training and experience in the applicable legal issues affecting seniors. This makes elder law attorneys better equipped to understand and meet the needs of their elder clients and their families. An experienced elder law attorney is also very skilled at anticipating potential legal issues facing seniors. All in all, the practice of elder law involves legal advocacy, education, counseling and future planning.
If you have questions regarding elder law issues, or any other estate planning needs, contact the Northern California Center for Estate Planning and Elder Law for a consultation, either online or by calling us at (916) 437-3500.
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