November is National Family Caregivers Month. Family caregivers are among the unsung heroes of our country. They provide the strength for those of us who need a little (or more than a little) help.
There are many ways in which clients can help the family caregiver. One of the most important things clients can do to help the family caregiver is to make sure their own affairs are in order. By doing their own estate planning, clients can make sure that there is an orderly transition of authority upon the client’s death or incapacity. That way, someone can pay the electric bill and can make sure there is authorization to take the client to the doctor, and reduce the possibility of family turmoil.
Clients should at least make sure the basics are covered. A Health Care Power of Attorney and a Financial Power of Attorney in addition to a Trust and/or a Will are a start. Depending upon the circumstances, additional trusts might be advisable for advanced planning or to preserve assets from Medicaid.
Without proper planning, the family caregiver might be left in limbo. Often the clients will want to choose the family caregiver as their agent under powers of attorney. Sometimes clients want to split up these roles. Whatever the client wants, it is important that those wishes are spelled out in their documents so that there is an easy transition and someone is there to step in to keep the lights on.
After the client has tended to their own estate plan, they might offer to pay for the family caregiver to take care of the caregiver’s own estate planning needs. The family caregiver will be better able to concentrate on caregiving when they know their own planning is done.
In addition to arranging to complete estate planning for the client and the caregiver, the client and/or rest of the family could arrange random acts of kindness for the family caregiver. Surprise the caregiver with tickets to a movie, play, or concert! Give them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant! They deserve it. The family caregiver is priceless!
For more information on family caregivers, click here for articles on the Huffington Post on the topic.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555