Thursday, July 28, 2011

Caring for an Aging Parent: Part 2

In our previous post we began a discussion about the challenges and best practices associated with caring for an aging parent. 

In addition to the information shared with respect to dealing with an aging parent's reluctance to stop driving due to loss of functional ability, you may also contact the Department of Motor Vehicles yourself and request that your parent's license be revoked until testing is done. In New Hampshire, drivers who are 75 years of age or older at the time their current driver license expires are generally required to renew their license in person at a local DMV office and will often be asked to take a road test as well as written examination. It should be noted that we have heard that this requirement may be discontinued. Nonetheless, some seniors successfully pass such hurdles and still may pose a danger on the road.

In such a case, the only legal option to remove a senior's ability to drive is to obtain a guardianship. This requires court involvement, and if contested, can be costly, and in some cases, the result is not favorable. Please feel free to contact our office if you need assistance relating to this issue.

The following is a safe driving list. The answers to these questions can help you determine whether a conversation about this issue with your parent needs to take place.
Safe Driving Check List:
  1. Vision: Can your parent pass a vision test?
  2. Hearing: Does your parent leave the turn signal on because they can�t hear it? Being able to hear (turn signals, other vehicles) is critical to safe driving.
  3. Have you noticed any unexplained dents in the garage or on the car?
  4. Does your parent allow other people in the car if he/she is driving?
  5. Does your parent seem unusually nervous when driving?
  6. Is your parent driving too slow or too fast?
  7. Has your parent forgotten to turn on/off car lights?
  8. Has anyone else, such as neighbors observed anything unsafe with your parent's driving?
  9. Please remember that medications can sometimes have a negative impact on driving at any age.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Caring for an Aging Parent: Part 1

Given demographic changes and in light of the number of baby boomers, we thought it would be helpful to our clients and business partners if we started a series regarding caring for your aging parent.
This series will discuss issues relating to caring for an aging parent and will hopefully assist you with some of the difficult decisions that are involved with doing so.

So, welcome to the first article in our series, "Caring for Your Aging Parent."

My aging parent's driving is now a safety issue... What can I do? *
This is a difficult question that many caregivers face. The Federal Highway Administration reports that drivers age 70 and older experience more motor vehicle fatalities than any other driving group other than the drivers who are under the age of 20. Aging affects everyone differently and often there can be a decline in physical and cognitive abilities.

This being the case, children are often concerned about a parent driving when it is no longer safe for that parent to do so. As you may know, there is no mandatory age for taking away someone's license. Therefore, legally, what can a child who is concerned about a parent's safety do?

Ideally, the parent will recognize the safety issue and give up driving voluntarily. This was the case of my grandfather. My grandfather was able to ride a motorcycle until he was 90. Subsequently, his reflexes declined and at 92, he understood his limitations and voluntarily gave up his license. Unfortunately, other seniors, despite frequent accidents, refuse to give up the independence driving brings to them.

First, it is important to understand that change is not easy for most people and that giving up something significant such as driving can be very difficult. For this reason, speaking with your parent about this issue and giving your parent a reasonable amount of time to process the possibility of losing his/her license can be more effective than just telling them that it needs to happen now.

Considering the Safe Driving Checklist provided below sooner rather than later can also be helpful. Beginning the process with limiting night driving and introducing your parent to alternate forms of transportation resources can also be useful.

If despite your efforts to convince your parent otherwise, your parent continues to drive, you may want to discuss the issue with his/her physician. A doctor can do a test of his/her physical and cognitive functionalities and discuss with your parent how these functionalities if impaired may impact the ability to drive safely. A healthcare provider can also notify the Department of Motor Vehicles that your parent should be tested.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trust Protectors & What You Should Know

Most of us are familiar with the word, "trustee," but may not be familiar with the words "trust protector."

A trust protector is a person the Grantor of a trust appoints to ensure that the trustee of the trust carries out the Grantor's wishes and intent. Unlike a trustee, a trust protector is not involved with the day to day administration of the trust. However, a trust protector does monitor the actions of the trustee and can make important decisions about the operation of the trust or about the distribution of the trust assets.

When are trust protectors useful?

Educational, Support and Special Needs Trusts: Trust protectors can be useful to assist a trustee in connection with the administration of educational, support and special needs trusts where a trustee's discretion is more limited. A friend or family member acting as a trust protector is likely to be familiar with the Grantor's intent and may be able to make better decisions about tough choices about family issues than institutional trustees. A trust protector can also be helpful in making decisions about discretionary distributions from the trust.

No financial experience: When the trustee is not experienced in financial management, the Grantor may want a trust protector to have the power to approve or veto the trustee's investment decisions.

Poor health and/or advancing age: If the Grantor feels that the trustee may eventually be unable to make good decisions at a later time due to poor health or advancing age, the trust protector could have the power to review and approve the trustee's accounts.

Incompetency/Violations: In the event a trustee becomes incompetent or violates the terms of the trust, a trust protector having the ability to remove a trustee and appoint a replacement is helpful.

Changes in circumstance: Trust protectors can be helpful if the terms of the trust need to be changed due to changes in circumstances relating to health, disability and financial situations.

Mediation: As a person who is familiar with the Grantor's wishes, a trust protector can assist with mediating disputes between the trustee and the beneficiary(s) or between the beneficiaries themselves. Having a trust protector is some cases may be a cheaper, faster alternative to resolving these disputes in court.

What are the downsides of having a trust protector?
The appointment of a trust protector can impose additional costs on the trust administration, may conflict with the trustee and could interfere with the efficient management of the trust.

Are trust protectors really necessary?
Sometimes, they are helpful. However, in other cases, appointing a co-trustee or allowing a successor trustee to appoint a subsequent trustee can accomplish the same objective(s). Empowering a special trustee to act under certain circumstances about a particular issue can also be an effective alternative.

If you have any questions regarding trust protectors and whether it would be appropriate to have one in your situation, please feel free to contact our office.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Family Care Givers, The Backbone of Long-term Care: Part 3

It is a myth that most of the elderly are cared for by nursing homes or health care institutions, In fact, 87% of those who need long term care receive that care from unpaid caregivers. That being the case, what can you do to make caregiving easier down the road? The key word is “plan.”
As noted in our previous two posts, first you must determine where to start, and then learn about estate planning. Finally, be sure to take care of yourself:
  • Accept help
  • Information is power; be proactive
  • Consider your own needs, “put your oxygen mask on first”
  • Join a support group
  • Get respite, take time off for you