Dealing with Elder Care Issues

As Americans continue to live longer, many of today’s retirees are finding it necessary to help elderly parents or relatives manage their personal and financial affairs. Plans that may have proven satisfactory at age 65 often require a second look when seniors reach their late seventies, eighties, and nineties. If you have an aging parent or relative, the following arrangements can assist you in addressing their concerns:

o Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts. A revocable trust allows an aging senior to retain control of his or her property, while delegating the responsibility for daily management to others. This arrangement gives the senior the flexibility to change the trust in any way, and at any time, as experience and circumstances require. As added protection, a revocable trust may remain unfunded, as long as a senior is legally competent. On the other hand, seniors willing to relinquish ownership of assets altogether may wish to consider establishing an irrevocable trust.

o Durable Power of Attorney. This mechanism allows elderly individuals to appoint a trusted relative or friend as a representative in legal and financial matters. The powers granted may be limited or broad in scope, and may vary from state to state. They remain in effect during disability or incompetence—although, in the event of incompetence, a guardian or conservator could revoke them. Some financial institutions are reluctant to recognize a durable power of attorney, so it is worthwhile to explore any potential problems beforehand.

o Private Annuities. With a private annuity, an elderly individual can formally transfer property to a family member in exchange for that person’s promise to make periodic payments for the rest of the senior’s life.

o Informal Arrangements. A senior can also informally transfer property to his or her heirs, in many cases free of gift taxes, in exchange for being taken care of for the rest of his or her life. This arrangement, however, should be approached with caution. Even with the best of intentions, it is possible that adult children could deplete assets through poor management, divorce, or creditor claims. Once the assets are gone, an aging parent or relative could become dependent on the goodwill and financial circumstances of family members.

Review Plans Periodically
It may be necessary to periodically review these arrangements, as needs and circumstances change. You may also wish to consider consulting qualified legal and financial professionals with experience in elder care issues. Their informed advice may prove invaluable in negotiating the complex legal and tax issues that can arise.


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