As a caregiver, you spend much of your time, money, and energy taking care of the needs of others. If you are like some of our clients who have taken on the role of caregiver for ill or disabled spouses, aging parents, children, or other loved ones with special needs you may not have considered your own needs. Unfortunately, we have had clients who seemed healthy but passed away before the family member who was receiving the care.
Your job is invaluable, but it may exact a heavy toll if you do not seek out the help of others. Have you ever been on an airplane? Do you remember the steward giving instructions about what to do if unexpectedly and suddenly the cabin loses pressure?
Ding, ding, ding! You got it. In case of a cabin pressure emergency, put on your own mask first before assisting others. Just like in an airplane, you, as caregiver, must take care of yourself first. If you suffer a nervous breakdown, have a heart attack, or fall into a sleep deprived accident, who will take care of your loved one?
Care for Yourself and Your Loved Ones by Creating an Estate Plan
As your estate planning attorneys, we are another resource you can look to for support. If you are caring for aging parents or other family members with disabilities, it is essential to ensure that you not only address your own emotional and financial health, but that you have an estate plan in place that addresses both your needs and the needs of those you care for. We can provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing not only that a plan is in place for your future, but also the future of the loved one under your care. Knowing that your loved one will continue to receive loving care, even if something happens to prevent you from continuing to acting in the role of caregiver, will help ease any concerns you have about your loved one’s care.
Name a Guardian
If you are a parent who is acting as a caregiver for a special needs child, you should name a guardian—and more than one alternative—in your will to serve in the role of physical caregiver if you pass away or are no longer able to care for your child. Otherwise, the decision about who will act as a guardian will be left to the court, which may not reflect your wishes.
If the care recipient is an adult, you must ask a court to name you as your loved one’s guardian and/or conservator to be able to make decisions about their health care, living arrangements, and finances. If you are providing day-to-day care, you may want another trusted person who can handle your care recipient’s financial matters to act as conservator.
What happens if you are no longer able to act in the role of guardian for your adult care recipient? State law varies regarding the designation or appointment of a successor guardian for an adult. Some states allow a standby guardian to be appointed at the same time the first caregiver is appointed or to be designated in the initial guardian’s will or in another written document, as long as it is properly witnessed. If anything happens to you, the standby guardian can immediately step in to begin providing care. Some states allow a standby guardian to serve for a brief time but require approval by a court before being appointed as the permanent guardian. Still, other states have laws enabling the court to consider an individual you nominate in your will as a successor guardian when the court is making the decision about who is the best person to take on that role. We can help you determine the best course available for you.
Consider a Special Needs Trust
A will alone is unlikely to adequately address the needs of your care recipient. If you leave money outright to the person for whom you are caring or to another caregiver, it could be spent in a way that is contrary to your wishes, and will now be vulnerable to creditors of the recipient. In addition, it could make your loved one ineligible for government benefits or aid.
A special needs trust is an estate planning tool that may be very beneficial for your care recipient. A special needs trust can help preserve the beneficiary’s eligibility for government benefits, name a well-qualified trustee to manage the trust funds, designate a care manager, and preserve your loved one’s quality of life. Along with your financial advisor, we can help determine which of your resources can be used to fund the special needs trust or if a life insurance policy may be needed to ensure that there are sufficient funds available to provide for the beneficiary’s care. We can help you create a trust that sets aside, protects, effectively manages, and distributes assets for your care recipient’s lifetime, and equally important, designates a trusted individual to act as an advocate for your loved one if you cannot.
We Are Here for You
It is important not only to recognize your own emotional needs and develop the skills needed to deal with the stresses of caregiving, but also to reach out for help when you need it. As a caregiver, it is crucial to ensure not only that your own future is secure, but to also create plans that provide for your family and care recipient if something should happen to you. Take the time to create an estate plan, or if you have a plan in place, to reevaluate it at regular intervals to address changing life circumstances and laws. Please call us today to set up a meeting. We can help put your mind at ease by designing a plan that provides security for you, your family, and your care recipient.