A longer lifespan is a wonderful blessing for many, but for others a longer lifespan doesn’t always translate into an enjoyable quality of life. Lengthy chronic illnesses lead to exponentially increased healthcare costs. This requires advanced planning.
It rarely comes the way that you expect it. One second your parents are planning their next trip in the RV, and then you mom breaks her hip in a serious fall and your dad is diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
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 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.
Your best and only defense: start talking with your parents about how they want to live, age and what kind of end-of-care life they want. Don’t hope that it resolves itself. This usually leads to emotional, legal and financial disaster.
Once you have your parent’s estate plan in place, start on your own. The same estate planning attorney who was able to help you with your parent’s estate, will be able to help you and your family too. Estate planning is necessary at every stage of life.
Reference: Chicago Now (March 7, 2017) “Getting Old Sucks: Why To Start Estate Planning With Your Parents”