This is an article from Hook Law Center (www.hooklawcenter.com) in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that we thought others may find helpful.
Every individual should have a plan for when they can no longer make decisions for themselves effectively. However, most people delay planning because it entails confronting their fears about disability, death, and dying. As the U.S. population ages in greater numbers due to aging baby boomers and increased longevity, the marketplace has responded to the needs of such planning. Accordingly, here are a few tools that are currently available, but often overlooked, to assist in planning for disability, incapacity, or death.
Elder law attorneys are probably the most overlooked tool for incapacity planning. Beyond providing the legal documents and tools for effectively coordinating decision making and financial management, elder law attorneys provide an experienced concierge in areas most people have not confronted, such as coordination of benefits, hiring of supplemental providers, and coordinating financial planning. Furthermore, elder law attorneys focus on the effective implementation of their documents. Put simply, a power of attorney or other document is false comfort if the document cannot be used effectively when needed.
Aside from attorneys, financial advisors are underutilized as a tool to address incapacity and death. Building a solid relationship with a financial advisor can be an extremely effective way of coordinating assets at death, preventing or mitigating financial exploitation, and budgeting for medical expenses. If you have a financial advisor that you have been working with it is important that your advisor and your attorney are “on the same page” so that your legal and financial plans are coordinated effectively.
Age, dementia, and other issues can cause individuals to be more susceptible to scams or even result in a change in personality. While financial advisors used to limit their focus almost solely to investment return, most are realizing that placing alerts for unusual expenditures and regularly discussing budgeting and other matters with clients. The increased focus on these concerns provides an important service and some protection in the event of incapacity. Frequently, we meet with individuals who have only realized the extent of their cognitive decline due to issues brought up by their financial advisors such as unusual withdrawals, large expenditures, increased purchases, and other general changes in financial behavior.
A third overlooked tool is a trusted CPA. Many individuals think that their income picture in retirement is so simple, that they do not need a CPA to assist in preparing their tax return. However, having returns regularly filed with a CPA provides a quick and easy place for a substitute decision maker or executor to go in the event of incapacity or death, respectively. Furthermore, we frequently see individuals who self-file tax returns miss out on important tax benefits available to older clients, such as deductions for long term care premiums, deductions for healthcare expenses, and “catch-up” contributions to retirement savings. Sometimes we see families who fail to properly plan payments for the benefit of a medically needy family member in order to claim them as a dependent. These benefits quickly justify the cost of using a CPA experienced in income tax planning and filing.
A fourth overlooked set of tools are the multitude of services and applications that have proliferated to address coordination of banking, account, health, and other information. Most banks have created smartphone applications to manage accounts, which is a great help to any family caregiver. Mobile payment platforms for in-home care services prevents the need to trust new caregivers near cash or checkbooks, while delivering instant and direct payment for their services and keeping a clear record for tax and other reporting needs. Password applications provide a digital vault to keep your passwords so that they can be accessed by your substitute decision maker in the event of your incapacity or death (or by you, if you’ve forgotten a password). Other applications can help you (or a trusted loved one) keep track of your finances, health data, and other important information in an easily accessible location. While these services do come at an expense many of them quickly justify their costs in the security, comfort, and protection they provide.