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Planning Issues for Elderly Parents

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Watching your parents age is an emotional and often challenging experience. For members of the "sandwich" generation, the need to consider care for aging parents comes while parenting duties for their own children continue. The double-duty can be difficult, especially serious health and financial issues are involved.

The Child Becomes the Caregiver

For example, many adult children must make sudden decisions when mom or dad falls and breaks a hip or is diagnosed with the first signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Once this happens, the tables have turned, and the child has to be prepared to help make decisions about their parents care.

How to Avoid This Situation?

Your parents value their independence, and they may not want you "meddling" in their affairs. The inescapable truth is, the sooner they have a specific plan in place, the better it will be for everyone concerned.

Speak to your parents about estate planning while they are still healthy enough so that important decisions are not made in a crisis mode, with everyone forced to operate under stress.

Determine if You Need Long-Term Care Insurance

If your parents have substantial assets, they may need to consider long-term care insurance. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are extremely expensive in New Jersey and in other many parts of the country. They can cost over $100,000 a year.

This can drain a lifetime of savings in only a few years. Given the current political environment, fewer public dollars are likely to be available to cover these programs, not more, so it is unlikely they will be expanded. If you delay too long, the cost of the coverage can become overwhelming and potential pre-existing conditions may become known and be excluded.

Sooner Rather than Later

Planning. Planning. Planning. The sooner these issues are addressed, the better for all. Most people know they need to do something. But a study by John Hancock found that 69 percent of those who responded to the survey said they had done little or no planning for long-term care needs.

Make sure you fully understand what a long-term care policy would cover and - equally important - what it would not cover. The policies are complex; they can cover a wide variety of circumstance, including a fixed amounts, unlimited amounts, inflation adjustments, care in facilities, home care, equipment, transportation. Purchasing such a policy may or may not be advisable, depending on your specific situation.

Consider Your Options

It is important to consider a full range of estate planning options. Long-term care insurance is only one possible tool. Others can include a will, a power of attorney for financial matters, a health care directive, and the creation of various types of trusts.

Given the importance and consequence of many of the decisions, it makes sense to discuss them thoroughly with an experienced attorney. A lawyer will know what questions to ask and how to design an estate plan that meets your needs and goals.

From our law offices in Hackensack and Manhattan, Gartenberg Howard LLP has served individuals and businesses across northern New Jersey, including Bergen County, Essex County, Union County, Middlesex County and Passaic County, and the five boroughs of New York City since 1984.

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