Estate Planning and the Elderly

I spent this past Labor Day with my family.  I decided to take a full three-day weekend and just relax with the family (if you can say that spending time with the family is totally relaxing, but I digress).  Anyway, I went to visit my grandmother in the assisted living home.  Her health is really starting to go downhill and I thought I should spend some time with her.

One of the things that I noticed was that my grandmother’s mind was really slipping.  Although I knew that she wasn’t doing well, I really didn’t realize how bad she was getting.

I also spent some time with my parents talking about her estate plan.  It is weird.  Just because you go to law school doesn’t mean that you know everything about the law.  Estate planning really isn’t my forte.  Anyway, my parents and I discussed the Revocable Trust and Powers of Attorney.  My father was telling me about the difficulty that he was having with the bank with regard to the Power of Attorney.

The bank was, nearly every time that they went in to change something, was consistently telling them that the Power of Attorney was invalid.  Or at least not valid for bank purposes.

So, I called up an old law school friend that practices estate planning (theeastmanlawfirm.com).  Gary told me that this was, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence.  Specifically, he told me that most banks were staffed with people that had next to no knowledge of estate planning and the documents that went along with that.  Thus, when confronted with something that they don’t know (a regular occurrence) they tend to just say “no.”  In these cases, he said to go ahead and just push them on it, asking to speak with the bank manager or the bank’s lawyer.  That usually resolves it.

This led us to a discussion of other estate planning needs.  Seeing how my grandmother is getting older, we went through some of the basics.  Fortunately, we have set her up with a Revocable Trust, which will avoid probate at her death.  Given that all of her assets are titled within the trust, this will really save us a bunch of time and cost at her death.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a living will or a do not resuscitate (DNR) document for my grandmother.  A living will would allow the doctors to remove life-saving care once we give them the document.  Although she’s not quite to that point, she seems to be rapidly getting there and I’d rather she not suffer, you know?

The DNR is a whole other animal.   It’s really more for people with a terminal illness, like cancer.  This would keep the doctors from reviving her if her heart were to stop.  Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with that yet.

In sum, it was great to see the family and also to get a reminder to get your affairs in order before you are no longer able to do so.