Friday, April 21, 2023

Make Sure EOL Wishes Are Known!

I am currently a party to a situation where a relative has died and left no instructions, will or trust. It's sad because no one knows if the person wants to be cremated or buried. We don't know if there's a paid plot or cremation service, and even moving his remains from the county morgue has been an ordeal. 

This person was found dead in a wellness check that a neighbor called for and the coroner was called. So fortunately, there was  no need for medical advice or attempts at resuscitation. But had s/he been found alive, apparently not having a Power of Attorney for Healthcare would have been an issues had s/he not been able to voice choices at the time. 

Missed Opportunities- Don't Delay Decisions

In this situation, the person had begun vague discussions about EOL wishes, but was only seeking preliminary information. No discussion happened regarding a health care power of attorney, burial wishes or any plans already in place, and certainly not wishes for division of the estate. S/he became totally overwhelmed with the little information provided and wasn't able to complete even the simplest of tasks. So now, we're caught starting from scratch. Of course there is some money involved and that will bring out the worst in some of the relatives no doubt. 

This matter has been, and will continue to be very sticky. It will be a long, drawn out process. Just hoping for no objections and in-fighting about what actually happens now. It has already taken significant time and that will impact some of the first decisions. These situations are not rare and my hope is that you will each resolve these items before it become a sticky mess for you.

In my experience as a home health and hospice nurse for years, I have had to initiate the uncomfortable discussions all too often when time was of the essence. Death and dying is not a comfortable subject for everyday conversation, but the truth is we will all die at some point. Most of us may have strong feelings about burial vs cremation and whether or not to have a simple service, or a huge event. Some decisions are influenced by cultural beliefs and customs. No matter what the decisions, they will incur expenses that aren't always planned for or paid in advance. 

In this case, we have no idea if there were any plans and if any were prepaid. It will be a real shame if there were prepaid plans and we are unable to discover them. End-of-Life (EOL) Estate planning does not have to be complicated. 

Start with Simple EOL Decisions

If only the bare minimum of decisions are made and made known to multiple family members, it can be a great start and very helpful for navigating the more complex EOL issues. There are numerous EOL related legal forms and software on to help you understand and expedite the process. They also have books to guide the process, and a network of attorneys if you so choose. 

Probate attorneys can be your best friend, but be aware that they are expensive. Finding a probate attorney can be a long process as well. Probates can take 18 months to 2 years on average to complete and that's a big commitment for the legal team as well as the administrator or executor. 

I encourage you to begin the conversation in casual, comfortable situation. Ask simple questions about whether your loved one has even thought about what they would like done. 

  • Do they want to be cremated or buried? Or have other ideas? Have they made any arrangements? Do the research. There are many affordable options that get overlooked when decisions have to be made on the spot. Or perhaps your loved one wants something lavish. Is there money set aside, or an insurance policy to cover these costs? 
  • Have they considered how to disperse assets and any property or other  items? Having a living trust can make this all much easier than going to probate.
  • Have they considered appointing a Power of Attorney for Health Care? 
  • Have they thought about their EOL health care decisions? 

Other Things to Make this Easier

Other issues to get in order will include things like making a list of their bank account numbers and information, any investments, a list of property, and any wishes regarding who should inherit what. They don't have to share this, but put the information in a spot where it can be found when needed. 

There are procedures that can make things easier should they become incapacitated or pass away such as adding your name to their accounts so that a smooth transition can be made. For instance, adding your name to your loved one's utility accounts can make it easier to make changes such as shutting service off or transferring it to your name, Also have them make sure beneficiary information is up to date on policies such as insurance policies, retirement accounts like 401k's and any stocks or bonds and other assets.Consult an attorney for any questions you have to ensure it all gets done the way you want it.

While you're helping your loved ones make these decisions and completing forms, check out the forms and processes you need for your estate as well. 



Friday, February 17, 2023

5 Plus Tips for Dealing with Your Aging Loved One's Pets

How do you deal with pet care issues when your aging loved one is losing the capacity to care for them? And the eventuality of a permanent new home.This can start with needing assistance with feeding, walking and cleaning up after the pet. It can also affect the finances of your loved one. Do they need assistance paying for food or medications? Does the animal need expensive medical attention? There are volunteers to assist with some of these tasks, and local vets often offer discounts and assistance for seniors. The unconditional love and affection as well as emotional support of pets can be most beneficial to your aging loved ones and maintaining these relationships for as long as possible is important.

Like any other part of their lives, you will need to incorporate the pet care issues into your overall plan for transitioning your loved ones through the late stages of their lives. Doing what's best for everyone is always a priority, but there may be some very difficult decisions to be made.The goal is to make this process as painless as possible.

In most instances pets are considered family and the commitment is real. This is the ideal scenario when adopting a pet and needs to be considered when it comes time to making new arrangements. Decisions must be well thought out and aimed at the best possible solutions. As you know already, or will discover with this journey, things can change on a dime and the plan must flex. You always need to have Plan B in the back of your mind.

Options to consider:

  1. One of the best solutions would be to be able to absorb the pets into your own life or perhaps the life of another close relative or close family friend. If the pet is familiar with the people and the environments, it can ease their transition and potentially eliminate future problems. This is not always possible for any number of reasons. If this is the solution you have in mind, always keep pace with any changes that can affect the plan. This could include, the adoption of other pets, change in housing situations that might prevent them from incorporating the pets into their household and lifestyle, changes in health status of the potential new caretaker. 
  2. Explore other options to re-home the pets through breed or non-breed rescue organizations and determine their availability, their rules and specifications, and an idea of how quickly they can help make the move possible. Again you'll need to keep pace with any changes in their situations. Never assume that it'll be your option months down the line. 
  3. Contact local veterinarians for resources and ideas on where and how to find help with caring for a pet and when the time comes, help to best re-home you loved one's pets.  Keep in mind that it's always a good idea to ask a re-homing fee to ensure the pets are wanted and being committed to and not being lured into nefarious situations. This can be discussed further once you've decided on a new home and feel confident it's a good situation, but don't advertise as "Free to good home."
  4. Post your needs situation on local social media sites such as the Next door app or local Facebook groups to see what interest you can elicit.  Be aware that this won't be the most popular move with some. You'll get criticism, but there may be that one gem who is looking for a new companion and you just touched their heartstrings. 
  5. If your loved one is on home health or hospice services, explore pet care or placement assistance with them. Some agencies run a foundation to assist with pet care and placement. The social workers at these agencies are usually a wealth of information and resources to help you find a solution. 

When exploring assisted living facilities, check whether pets can be housed with your loved ones. Most don't accommodate this, but some do. However, it might only be for cats, or you'll be expected to pay for extra services to feed and care for the pets.  

Make sure the pet's vaccines and licenses are up to date and you disclose any health conditions to the potential adopter, rescue or shelter.

As a least desirable option, a no-kill shelter surrender may be necessary. 

Additional options can include a trust fund set up by your loved one to help pay for feeding and and medical care for the animals. This can be helpful for anyone willing, but hesitant because of the financial commitments. 

Most importantly, planning for this eventuality is a must to help make the heart wrenching transition smooth and successful for all.

For additional reading:

 Photos from Deposit Photos