Your Family, Your People
“Tell me about your family.” Most consultations have a version of that question asked at some point. Action-packed family drama is not the only sign that an estate and long term care plan may require some added attention. A family may have hit its peak in 1958 or 1979 or 1991. Maybe caregiving was not a huge concern during the era where 6 brothers and sisters along with both parents and 8 aunts and uncles lived within 10 miles of each other. Dwindling families have not only changed the arithmetic for planning special occasions, but when a crisis occurs knowing who to contact becomes another challenge.
Who are your people? A spouse? Your children? A favorite sister or caring nephew? A best friend? A proper estate and long term care plan is measured by the people who will ultimately make the decisions that impact your life and legacy. On the first level are the individuals who will make decisions for you while you are alive but coping with health issues. These are your Health Care Proxy and Agent under a Power of Attorney. One person to handle these responsibilities is sufficient, but back-ups are preferred just in case. If you get sick you will need a point person or persons to advocate on your behalf with the hospital – doctors, nurses, and social workers. After a hospital discharge, the same people will be called upon to work with Rehabilitation Facilities and home care providers. Passive engagement will not be effective when a loved one’s health is failing. Maybe a hospital discharge is premature based on the available care options. Making the right decision will save heartache. If bills need to be paid, the Agent under a Power of Attorney has to organize the outstanding invoices and statements and understand the full financial picture before plunging in with both feet.
You may choose to appoint these same people to the next level of responsibility. If you have planned your estate properly then a Trust and a Will may be in your toolbox. Your people will be named as Trustees and Executors. They will ensure that your legacy is secure and your wishes followed with a minimum of strife. With a small family there is increased pressure to identify capable and trustworthy individuals to carry out these duties because options are limited. When there is no plan in place the people who may take control may not be the people you trust. Identify the people who will be there for you and put your plan in motion.