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White Plains Long-Term Care Planning Law Blog

What information should you have in an advance medical directive?

Creating a last will and estate plan doesn't just mean deciding who gets what from your acquired assets. Instead, the point of the process is to create comprehensive documents that guide your attorney, your heirs, your executor and your loved ones in the event of an extreme medical event or your death.

Creating a living will is one of the most important steps a person can take in the establishment of an estate plan. Your living will can provide guidance to your loved ones if you end up incapacitated due to an accident or unexpected medical event, such as a stroke. It can also authorize individuals to make medical decisions or take financial action on your behalf.

What is the Article 17-A guardianship?

Generally speaking, a guardianship is a legal arrangement in which one individual becomes legally responsible for another. It can be seen in the child welfare context, in which a youth under the age of 18 is taken care of by someone other than his biological parents and who has legal authority to make decisions for that child. But, guardianship can also involve adults. This usually happens when an elderly individual becomes incapacitated.

What is known as the Article 17-A guardianship, for example, involves an individual who has been deemed either intellectually or developmentally disabled. In order for an individual to be deemed disabled in this sense, a certification must be signed either by one physician and one psychologist or by two physicians. This certification is then filed with the petition seeking guardianship. This type of guardianship can also be utilized to care for an individual who has suffered a traumatic brain injury.

How to have a conversation about estate planning

The sad truth about estate planning is that so many individuals put it off until it is too late. This can leave an estate's assets susceptible to taxes and creditors, and it might leave family members fighting over who has rights to which property. Estate planning isn't an easy thing to think about. After all, it requires an individual to think about his or her own mortality. Yet, even when an aging individual procrastinates creating an estate plan, loved ones may be able to broach the topic.

Of course, when discussing delicate matters like this, timing is everything. It may be best to bring up estate planning while engaged in another activity so that the topic of estate planning and passing on are not too overwhelming. Using a story of friends or family, or even celebrities, can help transition an individual into a discussion on the topic. Additionally, when it comes to couples, it may help for one party to couch estate planning in terms of how to protect their children or the realization that they aren't getting any younger.

Staffing shortages and nursing home abuse

Most people probably assume that nursing homes would be diligent in the hiring and supervision of their employees, ensuring that only the most caring and qualified individuals are entrusted with the health and safety of some of society's most vulnerable people. Yet, this isn't always the case. Sometimes, individuals who are unable to control their frustrations lash out at nursing home residents, resulting in serious injuries.

But, this isn't the only way nursing home abuse occurs. One problem the industry faces is staffing shortages. A recent report noted that 1,400 U.S. nursing homes are understaffed. This means that these institutions are acting against requirements imposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. More specifically, these nursing homes often don't have a registered nurse available, sometimes for up to eight hours at a time.

Nursing home neglect and bedsores

Although bedsores can happen naturally in many cases - simply by being in bed for most of the day - their presence could also be an indication of neglect. In fact, one of the hallmark signs that your loved one has become the victim of nursing home neglect is the presentation of bedsores, which are also known as pressure ulcers.

If you're loved one has developed a bedsore while living in a long-term care facility, here are a few things you need to know:

  • Bedsores happen to people who have a difficult time moving.
  • Bedsores are most likely to appear on the bony parts of the body where they make contact with the bed or other objects.
  • The earlier a bedsore is discovered, the easier it will be to treat it.
  • The key way to prevent a bedsore is to frequently move patients.

Guardianships and related issues

A recent post here discussed the benefits of an adult guardianship. Depending on your loved one's particular set of circumstances, a guardianship may be worth considering. Such an arrangement can allow an incapacitated individual's health and finance decisions to be addressed until such time as he or she is able to make those decisions on his or her own, if possible. Yet, the creation of a guardianship must be handled delicately. As with most elder law issues, any slipups could result in an outcome that has an effect to the contrary of what was intended.

At our law firm, we advise our clients on all types of elder law issues, including guardianship. For those who want to ensure that their finances and health are protected in accordance with their wishes, we can help create legal documents, such as powers of attorney and healthcare directives, which leave them covered. We can also assist those who have loved ones who are unable to adequately care for themselves to obtain the guardianship role necessary to ensure that the elderly loved one is as fully protected as is possible.

Considering an irrevocable trust and life insurance policies

There are many steps New Yorkers can take to make their estate plans as robust as possible. Some decide to sell businesses and homes, thereby converting the asset to cash that is more easily distributable, while others try to utilize trust-bearing accounts that only pay out to beneficiaries when certain conditions are met. Another common tactic in building an estate plan is purchasing life insurance.

Life insurance pays out a lump sum of cash to a beneficiary or beneficiaries upon your death. However, these policies can sometimes cause estate planning headaches. Why? To start, the sudden windfall received by your beneficiary may be overwhelming and difficult to manage, thus making it susceptible to mismanagement. Next, proceeds from a life insurance claim may render a beneficiary who receives government benefits, like Medicaid, ineligible for those benefits. Additionally, money recovered from life insurance may be open to creditor collection if the estate has significant debts.

Protect your retirement benefits from health care expenses

If you are the adult child of elderly parents, you may be concerned about their retirement benefits getting eaten up by health care costs. A major health crisis can wipe out a couple's life savings and leave their finances in ruin.

Not only can this obviously have an adverse effect on the senior citizens, but it can also be to the detriment of adult children who may have to assume financial responsibility for their parents. In some cases, this could put undue strain on a marriage if the spouse grows resentful of the expenditures.

Aretha Franklin leaves massive estate behind with no will

Previous posts here have discussed the importance of estate planning and how those who don't engage in it adequately or in a timely fashion can be left susceptible to asset distribution that would be against their wishes. Yet, many individuals continue to neglect planning their estates. Even celebrities, like Prince, fall into that category, oftentimes triggering years-long litigation to value the estate and determine how property should be distributed.

Now, singer and icon Aretha Franklin falls into that same category. With her recent passing, the 76-year-old left behind an estate that could be worth tens of millions of dollars with no will or trusts to dictate how those assets should be handled. Additionally, her lack of estate planning vehicles could subject her estate to extensive taxes and expose it to creditors.

The benefits of an adult guardianship

Life expectancy continues to rise in America. Yet, even though we are living longer, that sometimes means that we live more years in declining health. For many New Yorkers, this means they or their loved ones need to find a way to get by when they may be unable to care for themselves. When this is the case, it may be time to seek an adult guardianship.

A guardian has numerous duties. Among the necessary responsibilities are fiduciary duties. This means that a guardian is responsible for the financial affairs of the individual he or she is responsible for, and the guardian must make all decisions in a way that furthers the protected individual's best interest. In addition to fiduciary duties, a guardian may need to make decisions that are important to the protected individual's everyday livelihood, including where he or she will live and ensuring that he or she receives appropriate medical care. The benefits of a guardianship are numerous when an elderly individual is truly incapacitated.

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Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP
245 Main Street
White Plains, NY 10601

Phone: 914-269-2367
Toll Free: 800-724-1327
Fax: 914-948-9316
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Additional office location
in Somers, New York

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