By: Paul Hamilton
Serving as a caregiver may require you to oversee your loved one’s legal affairs. A recent article on AARP’s website addressed this issue and included a legal checklist for Caregivers. Here are the highlights.
Obtain Essential Legal Documents
Your loved one should have the following key legal documents: A Will, a Power of Attorney, and Advance Directives. We will discuss these documents in greater detail later. For now, it is important to note that these documents should be created, signed, and witnessed while your loved one is still capable of making legal decisions on his or her own.
Get the Whole Family Involved
It is important to have everyone in the family participate in caregiving decisions whenever possible. You may even want to put into writing “who is responsible for what.” While this is not a legal document, it can help avoid disagreements in the future.
Organize Your Loved One’s Important Papers
In addition to the essential legal documents mentioned above, you’ll want to find and organize a number of other documents, including:
- Birth and Marriage Certificates
- Divorce Decree
- Citizenship Papers
- Death Certificate of a Spouse or Parent
- Deeds to Cemetery Plots
- Military Discharge Papers
- Insurance Policies
- Pension Benefits
Investigate Opportunities for Financial Assistance
There are a number of programs and services available to elders and/or individuals with disabilities. These include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), veterans’ benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicare, and Medicaid. You can use online tools like the AARP Foundation’s Local Assistance Directory and the National Council on Aging’s Benefits Checkup to determine local, state, and federal programs for which your loved one might be eligible.
You should also examine your loved one’s retirement and insurance plans to see if any of them cover in-home care, skilled nursing care, mental health services, physical therapy, and other forms of short-term assistance. Your loved one’s life insurance policy might even provide accelerated death payments to help pay for long-term care.
Also, if you must take a leave of absence from your job to care for a loved one, you may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. In addition, some employers offer paid family leave, and five states (New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, and California) plus the District of Columbia have laws mandating paid leave for caregiving. Several other states are set to implement such laws by 2023.
Explore Tax Breaks and Life Insurance Deals
Your loved one may be able to receive federal tax deductions for health care expenses such as a wheelchair or hospital bed, remodeling the home to make it more accessible, and hiring a short-term or part-time home health aide to provide respite for the primary caregiver. Be sure to save receipts for all medical expenses.