Reviewed by Jason Neufeld
Have you ever asked your loved ones any questions about their future? Do you know whether they have done any estate planning? Do you know if they have any ideas about where they would want to live if they were no longer able to care for themselves? Do they want to age-in-place? Have you put off asking these questions because they still live in their own home, buy their own groceries and drive themselves to appointments? However, as each year passes and your loved ones get older should you begin to have conversations with them about their future? Yes, you should. We understand that talking with your aging loved ones about estate planning issues, health care and death may be difficult and uncomfortable. However, when approached with care you may find that your loved ones are much more receptive to discussing these important issues than you anticipated.
We do have some thought provoking questions we would recommend asking your loved ones when you have an opportunity. Taking time now, while everyone is healthy and has capacity to discuss the future, is a great time to plan ahead. Here are some questions to start the discussions you need to have.
As you start the conversation with your loved ones about estate planning, ask them whether they have a Florida estate planning attorney. If they do not have a Florida estate planning attorney, this is where you need to begin. If they do have a Florida estate planning attorney, ask whether they have completed any Florida estate planning? For instance, do they have a Florida last will and testament? If they do have a Florida last will and testament, has it been updated recently? Where are the original documents in the estate plan kept? Can you have a copy?
Continue the conversation with your loved ones by asking them if they each have a Florida power of attorney? You need to discuss with your loved ones your concern about what would happen if they were suddenly incapacitated due to an accident and needed someone to make either financial or healthcare decisions for them. By each having a power of attorney in place, the trusted person of their choice named in their document will be able to step in to make legally binding decisions on their behalf. Discussing this concept of preparedness could ease the concerns of your loved ones in regard to if they were to suddenly become incapacitated due to an accident or illness. In addition, your aging loved ones could also create instructions through a health care surrogate for how their chosen agent should handle their health care if they are incapacitated or facing an end-of-life situation. An additional document, called a living will, can tell everyone how they want their end-of-life care to be handled.
A critical decision for your loved ones is, where do your loved ones want to live if they no longer can live on their own? Often, aging adults may eventually require assistance with daily tasks, such as keeping up with necessary medications, personal hygiene, or home-related responsibilities. When this occurs, ask if they would prefer in-home care or moving to an assisted-living facility? Do your aging loved ones want to age-in-place by staying in their home with a caregiver or move into a nursing home? Will they have the funds to pay for in-home care or a nursing home?
Finally, in addition to their Florida estate planning attorney, do your loved ones have a team of professionals they consult with about their investments, savings, insurances, taxes and/or charitable giving? Does their Florida attorney help your loved ones work with these professionals to make sure their legacy is safe, strong and secure, not only for them but also for their children and possibly their grandchildren? As you and your loved ones are now aware, not only does estate planning involve health care and financial considerations that can impact your aging loved ones during their lifetimes, but also their children and grandchildren after they pass away. Working with a qualified Florida estate planning attorney and other financial professionals can help ensure that the wishes of your aging loved ones are followed.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. The Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys (AFELA) is the pre-eminent organization of Florida elder law attorneys providing advocacy, education and action on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities. We encourage you to contact one of our attorneys in your area using our Find a Lawyer website for assistance.