It can happen out of the blue. One second your folks are in pretty good shape. The next second, your dad is in the hospital with pneumonia and your mom is showing signs of early onset dementia.
How the devil did this happen? This is the basic question asked by Chicago Now in its recent article, “Getting Old Sucks: Why To Start Estate Planning With Your Parents.” As the article puts it: “you are officially on the rollercoaster ride to elder hell.”
Fortunately, there are things you can do on this bumpy ride to make it easier on you and your parents. While it’s uncomfortable at first discussing the topic of death with your parents, it’s necessary and important.
Talk to them about estate planning and make sure that they have wills, durable healthcare and medical powers of attorney (POA) and health care directives. If your parents don’t have these documents, you should make an appointment with a qualified estate-planning attorney and get this completed today as soon as possible.
For example, what if your father has a debilitating stroke, doesn’t regain consciousness and needs 24/7 medical support indefinitely? Without a health care directive, the hospital will keep him alive, even in a vegetative state, until he passes naturally.
You’ll be unable to have him removed from life support, unless you can show the physician and hospital administrators his legally valid health care directive and his medical POA that details his wishes. Without these estate planning documents, you and your mother will have limited control on how he should be treated.
From a financial standpoint, it is important to remember that the hospitals will continue to bill you even when your father is on life support and technically brain dead. After 100 days of Medicare coverage, your mom will be fully responsible for these care and treatment expenses, if there’s no supplemental insurance.
Start the dialog with your parents and let them determine how they want to live and die. This will save you and your loved ones considerable stress, frustration and heartache in the future.
Once this is under control, work on your own estate planning. You should contact a knowledgeable and experienced estate-planning attorney with your questions.
Reference: Chicago Now (March 7, 2017) “Getting Old Sucks: Why To Start Estate Planning With Your Parents”