The Basics – Medical-Legal Planning for Ailing Seniors in New York

Yesterday we discussed the various programs, agencies, options available to help families with aging seniors. In addition to assistance programs, it is important for caregivers of older adults to make sure that their loved one’s wishes will be met at the end of life or if the older adult becomes mentally incapacitated. Preparing for management of finances also is important. These matters can be addressed in the following documents–

Living Will- a living will is a written statement about an individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment should he or she become incapacitated. This includes statements about a person’s wishes regarding “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) orders, intubation, feeding tubes and hydration, and other critical care matters.

Health Care Proxy (also called Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare)- The Health Care Proxy is a written document where the older adult appoints someone he or she trusts (such as a family member or close friend) to decide about medical treatment for the older adult if he or she cannot make that decision. The agent is instructed to act on the older adult’s behalf and in his or her best interests.

Financial Planning
Financial planning, like health care planning, involves the preparation of documents. Some critical documents include–

Durable Financial Power of Attorney- this document appoints a representative to manage the older adult’s finances if he or she is no longer able to do so.

Will- A will is a legal document that names an administrator to manage a person’s estate and provides for the distribution of property upon the death of the maker of the will. The law requires that certain requirements be met for a will to be valid and caregivers to consult an elder law attorney to help with the creation any will and accompanying documents, such as a trust or trusts.

Trusts- Trusts are an effective vehicle for managing the finances of an older adult. They can help with goals such as asset transfers, tax savings, and planning for eligibility for government benefits. Because the regulations for trusts are complex and ever changing, caregivers should consult a lawyer to help with all trust documents.

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