March 2, 2011

Helping Your Parents Age Gracefully

Nash&Bean-Curt-colorBy Curt Ford
Nash Nash Bean & Ford

Watching your parents grow older can be a difficult thing. You’ve spent a lifetime looking to them for guidance and leaning on their advice, and now your mom and dad seem to need your help in more and more areas. The roles start to reverse, and you wonder how best to help them at this stage in their lives.

Aging brings with it a range of new experiences and concerns. One of the more worrisome is the likelihood of an illness or accident that might mean your parents will need long-term care, either inside or outside the home. There’s also the concern that, at some point, your parents will no longer be able to handle their own finances, or that they’ll need someone to make medical decisions for them. If you and your parents are caught unprepared, this transition away from self-sufficiency can be full of confusion, difficulty and stress.

One of the things you can do to help your parents age gracefully is to have a gentle conversation with them, to make sure they have a comprehensive estate plan in place. This plan can help smooth any difficult transitions your parents might face in the future. A plan that meets all their needs will include the following documents:

• A Revocable Living Trust: This estate planning tool not only allows your parents to pass on property outside of
probate at their deaths, it also allows them to appoint you trustee to manage their trust assets for them in the event of disability.

• A Pour-Over Will: Property that has not been transferred into your parents’ Revocable Living Trust may not avoid Probate. A Pour-Over Will “catches” any property that’s left out of your parents’ trust and directs the property into the trust through the probate process. This ensures that all your parents’ property ends up where it was intended.

• A Durable Financial Power of Attorney: With this tool, your parents can appoint you “agent” to manage all property that’s not owned by their trust. This way, in the event that your parents become unable to manage their own assets, you can handle not only their trust property, but assets that have been left out of their trust, as well. If the Power of Attorney contains the appropriate language, you’ll also have the authority to engage in Medicaid planning on behalf of your parents. This can let you arrange for payment of nursing home care without using up all of your parents’ hard-earned property and savings.

• A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: Your parents can use this document to appoint you “agent” to make
medical decisions on their behalf, if the time ever comes when they can’t communicate their wishes to their doctors.

• A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) Authorization: Without the appropriate HIPAA authorization, no one can access your parents’ medical records. This authorization lets you see your parents’ medical records and speak to their physicians about their care.

If your parents do not have a comprehensive estate plan in place, or if their estate plan has not been updated recently, set up an appointment for them to meet with a qualified estate planning attorney. Once they have a plan in place, both you and your parents can rest assured that their futures are in good hands.

Nash Nash Bean & Ford are members of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. To receive a copy of our most recent newsletter “Your Estate Matters” or for a free
consultation on Estate or Long Term Care Planning, call (309) 944-2188, (309) 762-9368 or 1-800-644-5345. You may also contact our firm by email at or visit our web site at

The firm devotes its practice primarily in the areas of estate, business and tax planning and related areas of the law, as well as elder law and trust administration and probate. We offer guidance and advice to our clients in every area of estate

This column is designed for general information purposes only, and is not intended, nor should be construed or relied upon, as legal advice. Please consult your attorney if specific legal information is desired.

Curt Bean is an attorney at Nash Nash Bean & Ford. He can be reached at (309) 944-2188 or (309) 762-9368 or at