If you are caring for a loved one who is ill and worrying about the future, here is some information that may help you.
It can be difficult to know how to divide your time when a loved one is terminally ill. Providing for their medical and emotional needs comes first, and then you also must find some time to take care of yourself. Very often, the “business end” of things is an ever-present worry in the background. Taking the energy to deal with that concern can seem impossible. Having some information about what to expect may help you gain some peace of mind.
- First things first- the first item of business, once you have dealt with the more immediate needs — make sure that someone will be able to legally speak for your loved one if /when he or she is unable to do so. This means that, ideally, that someone is able to take care of ongoing day-to-day financial and medical needs; such as bill paying, check cashing, taking care of taxes, transferring money, signing medical documents, hiring caregivers, making medical decisions and so on. The best way to make sure of this is to have a Durable Power of Attorney (for day-to-day business and finances) AND the appropriate health care directives or health care powers of attorney. In order for these to be valid, the person must be lucid and competent to sign them. So, it is best to do this sooner, not later.
- Taking care of others- If your loved one is solely responsible for a child, elderly parent, person who has a disability, or has pets or livestock depending on them, it is important to discuss what will happen to these vulnerable ones once your loved one passes, or during the time that s/he is unable to care for them.
- A family business or sole proprietorship- There may be a responsibility to employees or patrons of the business, and there may be certain regulations and deadlines to be met. A Durable Power of Attorney for this purpose can give someone the authority to keep the business going, or wind it down.
- Property Distribution and Debts- Hopefully your loved one already has an estate plan, and has a Will, Perhaps a Trust, and has designated beneficiaries on all of his or her bank accounts, investments and retirement accounts. If not, and if s/he is still competent and well enough to do so, it is time to consider getting the affairs in order. If these preparations are in place, it is a good time to review them to make sure that everything is current, and that you understand what his/her wishes are.
- Paperwork- Minimally, even if your loved one has done none of the above (or if it is too late to do so), it is important that someone knows where to find important papers, what assets and debts exist, and how and when ongoing debts are paid.
- Talking to your loved one- This may be difficult because it can feel like you are sending the signal that you are “giving up”. In reality, taking care of these issues has many benefits. Your loved one may be waiting for you to bring up the subject. If it is difficult for you to do so, you can enlist the help someone your loved one trusts to get the conversation going.
- Know your loved ones wishes, if possible. Subjects to discuss include medical wishes and funeral plans and preferences, if any.
- Your loved one may have already planned ahead. If so, try to put the worries out of your mine and know that when the time comes, help is available to you.
At Kalish Law Office, we can help and advise you on these issues.