August 10, 2016
How to Protect an Elderly Mother’s Assets
A concerned daughter was curious how to protect her 93-year-old mother’s assets if she should become ill or die. She does not have a living will or a trust regarding her properties.
There’s hardly and “if” when it comes to becoming ill or dying. Her mother has been fortunate to have lived a long life, but luck does not last forever.
(Related: Creating a Safe Home for Elder Care)
There are several legal documents her mother need to protect both herself and her assets. Arguable the most important are powers of attorney for healthcare and for finances. With these documents she can designate people to make medical decisions and handle her finances for her should she become incapacitated. Also, filling out a living will would outline the life-prolonging care she would and wouldn’t want if she is unable to make her wishes known. In some states, living wills are combined with powers of attorney for healthcare, while in others they are separate documents.
Theelderly are not the only ones whom these documents concern. All people should have these since a disabling illness or accident can happen to anyone.
Her mother should also consider a will or living trust that identifies how she wants to divide out her estate to her heirs. Between the two documents, wills tend to be simpler and cheaper to draft, but a living trust means the court process known as probate can be avoided. The probate process is public, and in some states (particularly California) it can be protracted and expensive. In the event of incapacity or death a living trust simplifies the process if someone needs to take over the management of her finances.
Expertise and competence are important, so you may want a lawyer who is a member of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, an invitation-only group that includes many of the best in the field.
If the goal is to protect her assets from long-term care or other medical costs, it’s best to get someone experienced in elder care law to advise you.