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Protecting Yourself When You’re Taking Care of Mom or Dad

It seems like more and more families I know have one of their family members (usually a parent) struggling with Alzheimer’s or dementia. And when one family member is struggling with this disease, then typically the whole family is too. In this situation, lots of issues need to be addressed. Who should be the caregiver? Is it possible to rotate this responsibility so that no one burns out? Should the caregiver be paid? What happens when one of the children can no longer take care of Mom or Dad at home? Does Mom or Dad have the necessary legal documents in place to address this incapacity? If not, what can be done to give the child the necessary authority? In these situations, there are three essential things to keep in mind: (1) communication is key; (2) transparency is critical; and (3) make sure that you have the legal authority that you need to act.

Open Communication is Key

In addressing these issues, it is critical to communicate openly with all of the family members about your loved one’s care and condition. In addition, even if everyone is in agreement that “Susie” (Mom’s daughter) should take care of Mom, it is also important that everyone agree about whether Susie should get paid by Mom and how much she should get paid. Sometimes, for checks and balances, it may also make sense for “Bill” (Mom’s son) to handle the finances for Mom and Susie to handle Mom’s care. Moreover, as things progress over time, it is important to have open lines of communication with all of the family members about how Mom’s disease and care are changing. E-mail communications on a regular basis can be the best way to keep everyone informed. And if there is a fall or a hospitalization, then more updates are necessary to keep everyone in the “loop”.

Transparency is Critical

Especially if you are the person in charge of your parent’s care or finances, transparency with other family members is key. Without transparency, others often jump to conclusions about the care that Mom or Dad is receiving and about how Mom or Dad’s finances are being handled. Especially when there are rifts between siblings in the family, a written agreement about Mom’s care and regular communication will help to reduce the risk of other family members making or threatening claims against you under Arizona’s vulnerable adult statutes.

Get the Right Legal Documents in Place

Finally, it is also essential to have the right legal documents in place regarding Mom’s or Dad’s care and finances. Generally speaking, with proper planning ahead of time, court proceedings (and the significant costs related to them) can be avoided. Most of the time, if the person has executed a valid health care power of attorney, mental health care power of attorney, and living will (for end of life decisions), a guardianship proceeding can be avoided. In addition, most of the time, a validly-executed durable general power of attorney or revocable living trust will enable the named agent or trustee to manage Mom’s financial affairs without the need for a conservatorship. However, if Dad is already incapacitated, then it is too late to execute these documents. If this is the case, then it will be necessary to go to court to have a guardian and/or conservator appointed for Mom or Dad.

If you need help, please call me today – 602.277.7000

John Even

Our firm has helped hundreds of families just like yours handle a wide variety of estate planning, business planning, probate, and elder law issues. When families or business owners are not getting along, we can also handle any disputes and litigation related to their businesses, wills, trusts, guardianships, or conservatorships. Please give me a call, so that I can help you work through these difficult issues with confidence.

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