Seniors and the Law – Plan Ahead
Income, financial status, physical fitness, ability and self-sufficiency. Everything changes as we age. This includes our rights and responsibilities under the law. It’s important for everyone, but especially for seniors to know their rights. It’s equally important to plan ahead for the possibility of becoming ill, infirm, or incapacitated. What if you had to be hospitalized or couldn’t care for yourself? Would you know your rights as regards housing, long-term healthcare and other issues related to your health? Does your family know your wishes regarding end of life care and funeral arrangements?
While these are not necessarily pleasant topics to think of, it’s far better to address them now while you’re in full possession of your faculties, than to make your family go through the stress and confusion of having to deal with them after your gone on top of the difficult grieving process.
The law allows you to write out your directives regarding how you want your health and finances handled. You are allowed to appoint someone to care for and make medical and financial decisions for you. A Power of Attorney and/or an Advanced Healthcare Directive (also known as a Living Will) should be in place before illness or incapacity befalls you.
Creating and having these documents on file does not mean that seniors lose the ability to make your own decisions. This only comes into play in the event that you are ill or incapacitated and can no longer make them for yourself. If something does happen to you before you have these documents on file, the court will appoint a conservator to handle your affairs. The court-appointed conservator may be a friend or family member, but would fall under the supervision of the court, which may not be in accordance to your wishes. Conservatorship can be expensive , but you can apply to have the fees waived if you receive Social Security benefits or SSI. You have the ability now to name your own conservator in an Advanced Healthcare Directive for future consideration by a judge.
The law allows you to save for retirement and beyond with special tax-deferred accounts (IRA’s) and to take out long-term healthcare insurance and save while you’re still employed through medical savings plans and 401k plans. Ask your employer about your company’s pension plans and if there are survivor benefits. Most pension plans allow for a survivor’s pension.
If you’re receiving Social Security or SSI and are having trouble managing your payments the Social Security Administration can appoint someone called a Representative Payee to receive and make payments for you. A power of attorney is not sufficient for someone to cash SS or SSI checks on your behalf.
A Revocable Living Trust is recommended for you to put into place while you are still living. This allows you to put your assets into a trust while you are alive to be distributed to your heirs after you’re gone. This does not replace your need for a will as a will covers all of the items , property or assets that are not included in the trust.
If you are a senior who is renting your home, the law allows some special considerations for you. You cannot be evicted by your landlord without cause or without a court order from a judge. If you have a disability you can modify your home (even against your landlord’s wishes) with grab bars, lowered countertops or ramps.
If you live in a mobile home park designated for senior living, you have the right to have a younger person( even a family member) live there with you as a caregiver. If you’re going to be hospitalized for an extended stay you are allowed to sublet or rent your mobile home to someone else for up to 12 months.
Low- income or disabled seniors who own their homes, may be able to qualify for property tax relief. Either keeping your property tax at current levels or to defer payment of property tax until the property is sold or your estate is settled. If your home’s market value is less than the assessed value, you can also apply to have your property taxes reduced.
(Source: California Bar Association)
As you can clearly see, there are many benefits to seniors who take the time to plan ahead. When you’re ready to set up your estate plan contact US Wills and Trusts http://www.uswillsandtrusts.com
Our attorneys are ready to discuss your wishes and create a comprehensive estate plan to protect your family and your future. Call 714-584-7492 to get the process started.