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Planning For Retirement And Enjoying The Remaining Years

When it comes to planning for retirement, the most important person may, probably, be a financial planner or someone to make sure that you have enough money to enjoy those years the way that you want to.  However, equally as important is to make sure that you have completed your estate planning at the same time.  Oftentimes people think of estate planning as a death plan, but in reality estate planning is everything before that as well.  Incapacity can hit us at any time, and it’s imperative that you have your basic estate planning documents in place so that during those wonderful years, if you were unable to do something for yourself, somebody would be authorized to do it for you.  

Some basic items that we always recommend everybody to have in place is a Financial and a Medical Power of Attorney, as well as a Living Will.  These documents will allow you to make sure that your financial and medical decisions can be made for you if you are not able to make them.  It will avoid any fights with family members or anyone who you do not want to have access to your information and will also avoid the expense and the emotional heartbreak of a guardianship proceeding.  A Living Will will allow you to make your end of life decisions if you are “end stage medical”.  This is a period in time when two qualified physicians state in writing that there is no realistic hope of recovery, that a person will always remain vegetative, comatose, permanently unconscious, terminally ill.  If two doctors state this and that there is no realistic hope of recovery, a Living Will will allow you to decide whether you want heroic and lifesaving measures or whether you want them to withdraw treatment.  The most important piece is that the individual gets to decide for themselves, so that their loved ones don’t feel as though they had to make that difficult decision to pull the plug or to play “God”.  Finally, a Last Will and Testament will allow you to make the decisions about what will happen at your death and in the future, and along with your financial planner, who assisted you in making sure that you have enough money for retirement, they will, also, ensure that the assets are designated properly to go to the correct beneficiaries.  

Enjoying your time in retirement and enjoying those wonderful years will be much better knowing that you have protected yourself in case of an unforeseen incident or accident, et cetera.  The time to plan for that is now to allow you to enjoy each and every day to its fullest and not be worried about the worse-case scenario in case you didn’t plan. Enjoy those final years!

If you would like to learn more about this, please give us a call at 717-845-5390.

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My Loved One Will Stay Home Forever

This is a statement that we hear on a regular basis in our office when we talk about aging and potentially needing assistance for our loved ones in the future.  Most people, if asked, would choose or want to stay home as long as they possibly can.  We often are abruptly interrupted when we start talking about alternatives such as assisted living facilities or personal care homes or long-term care facilities.  

It is certainly admirable to want to stay home as long as possible and there are a lot of things that can be done to help ensure that that can occur.  The time to start discussing what it is going to look like for a loved one to stay home is now.  Take a look at the house and the configurations of the house to determine if it is suitable and adaptable to allow somebody to age there.  Is there a possibility of putting ramps in or having a stair lift installed to assist with getting up and down steps within the home.  Are there appropriate handrails or grab bars in bathrooms and other places.  We highly recommend that you ask a geriatric care manager to come to your home to assist with evaluating its adaptability and suitability for people as they age.  

If you find yourself in a situation where a loved one needs care now, we highly recommend that you look at non-medical options to have someone come into the person’s home to assist them with their needs.  Non-medical options are plentiful in the York and surrounding areas and allow families to know that their loved ones will have a companion during the day and potentially get reminders throughout the day about taking medication, going to the restroom, or getting meals.   Oftentimes all that people need is simple reminders and someone just taking a look to make sure that they are remaining safe in their home.  If the situation gets worse and the individual begins to need medical care we are also very lucky in our area that we have several medical options for care in the home.  I would highly recommend that you research both the medical and non-medical options in our area to see how plentiful and wonderful these companies are. 

As a person ages in place, and as their care needs increase, sometimes it is impossible to have somebody continue to remain in their home because it may become unsafe.  There are certainly a lot of options before this becomes a possibility but if a person begins to wander from the home or if the home is not able to be adapted to be safe for them we may have no choice but to move them into another type of setting.  However, with proper planning and assistance from outside companies and family members it is possible to age in place in your home for a long time.   We highly encourage you to have these conversations ahead of time so that you’re not having them in a crisis situation which makes the conversation much more difficult.  

If you would like to learn more about estate planning and elder law, please give our office a call at 717-845-5390.

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My Spouse Died, Am I Liable for his/her Debts?

As estate planning and elder law attorneys we receive this question all of the time. As a general rule of thumb, the answer is no, you are not liable for the debts of another individual. However, there are some exceptions to that general rule, which is why it is essential to seek professional advice when a loved one passes, especially a spouse who had debt in his or her name alone.

For example, there are a few situations where a spouse would be liable for the debt of a spouse, and they are a few of the following:

  1. If a spouse co-signs on a loan for a spouse, then they also own the debt.
  2. If a spouse is a joint account holder of a credit card with their spouse, then they are also liable for the credit card as a joint owner.
  3. If a spouse has jointly owned property, and that property has liability, then the joint owner would as well.

These exceptions are obviously pretty clear, which all point to the situation where the spouse is either an owner or co-signed for the debt one way or another. 

However, in the State of Pennsylvania, there is a doctrine called “The Doctrine of Necessities.” Essentially, it provides that a spouse is liable to provide for the necessities of their spouse. While this is certainly not a doctrine that is used all the time, it is possible that a spouse could be held liable for their spouse’s debt that was incurred prior to death if it is deemed to be a necessity and is deemed that the spouse has a duty to support the other spouse.

Although this is rare, it is definitely something not to overlook and, again, is why we recommended that you seek legal counsel when a spouse passes away to make sure that everything is taken care of properly and that you don’t assume any personal liability for any inadvertent omissions. 

Please, if you have any questions or concerns about your financial future should your spouse die, contact us at (717) 845-5390 or fill in our contact us form and we’ll get back to you.

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My Loved One Wants To Stay Home, But We Are Open To The Possibility Of Other Arrangements

We often make recommendations to local handymen to be able to make changes or adaptations to the home, and we certainly have numerous referral sources for medical and non-medical care in the York, Lancaster, and surrounding areas.  We are very lucky to have as many wonderful resources as we do, and we certainly like to take advantage of each and every one of them to allow people to remain in their home. 

One thing that has definitely become more of the norm recently is people moving into independent living communities such as 55-plus communities or personal care and assisted living facilities that have independent care options as well as the continuing care communities. 

One thing that we often hear from our clients after they move is that they wish they would’ve moved much sooner.  We often hear them explain that they believe that they wanted to remain home at all costs because they believed that that was the right thing for them but once they moved into a community, they realized the social aspects of living with others and being able to participate in community activities, bus trips, and other engaging and meaningful opportunities.  I have honestly never had a client come into my office who moved who said I shouldn’t have done that.  Typically it is I wish I would’ve done it sooner so that I could’ve enjoyed those opportunities much more.  

My advice to clients is that you should start looking at the options and opportunities while you are healthy and could enjoy them.  Start taking tours and talk to people who live in the communities to learn about the socialization opportunities that they offer.  

We believe in educating early and often so that people know what the options are available and  hope that this article sheds some light on the opportunities and possibilities that a community can offer you.  Not only will there be caregivers and ability to grow and to age in place, but also socialization aspects can oftentimes make people live longer and have them live a happy, healthy life towards the end.  

Both remaining at home and moving into a community offer different opportunities and fulfill different needs.  We encourage you to explore both options and to have an open mind about the possibilities of how both can provide you with opportunities and maybe your first reaction won’t be how you feel later in life.  If you would like to learn more about estate planning and elder law and how you can help your loved ones age in place or have them move to a community, please give our office a call at 717-845-5390. 

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How Technology is Changing the Estate Planning Landscape

It is so easy these days from the comfort of our homes to be able to learn all about our ancestry and to be able to take DNA tests to learn about our family history.  Technology sure has come a long way and is providing us with information from the comfort of our own homes that we never had seen before.  It is essential, now more than ever, to make sure that our estate planning documents are up to date and also are done appropriately and properly.  

Nowadays, it is easier to track down a parent that you never knew existed and just learned about, whether were adopted or simply just lost contact or were estranged from that person. Or there could be a situation where someone does not know that they had a child and years later it may come to light that they are a father because of the technology and ability to learn this information from the comfort of your home.  This will certainly change outcomes in the future of who is entitled to certain assets and who may have standing and different circumstances.  

It will be interesting to see how this fleshes out over the next 20 or 30 years, but one thing is for certain – it is more important now than ever to make sure that your estate planning is up to date.  It will be important to have them done correctly and make sure that all of your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed to ensure that someone can’t come in later who is unknown or unexpected and have rights. And especially important to have your documents prepared and not rely on the intestate laws of Pennsylvania to determine your beneficiaries.   

Technology certainly has and will change estate planning in the future, and we look forward to seeing how it does, but in the meantime, we will certainly plan accordingly and make sure that our documents are up to date and properly drafted for any unexpected mishaps.

 If you would like to learn more about this, please give us a call at 717-845-5390.

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