A few years ago I wrote a blog about drafting a health care proxy for your young freshmen. This is a topic I often talk about because it is so important, but most people never think of it. Well, I was thrilled when recently a young family member forwarded an e-mail from her college and asked for my help. This e-mail recommended that she have a health care proxy, power of attorney, and HIPAA authorization drafted before the start of school.
If you have a family member who is suffering from some form of dementia, you know how financially difficult providing quality care can be. According to a study published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, the financial burden on the nation as a whole is staggering, with the costs now exceeding those of both heart disease and cancer. [Read more…]
Massachusetts was recently struck by Hurricane Sandy, as was most of the east coast. We did pretty well here in Worcester and our hearts are with those who fared much worse than us in New York and New Jersey among other places.
Watching the devastation on television made me take action on two fronts, one: donate money to the Red Cross, and two: make sure my financial house was as ready for an emergency as my physical house was.
Here in Massachusetts we’re preparing for the snow storm season, so it is never too late to start.
For an emergency like the one the east coast just experienced experts recommend, among other things water and food to last about three days, cash and a tank full of gas (http://www.redcross.org/prepare).
What about our financial house? Let’s start with the most immediate needs and think about what should go into an emergency financial kit:
1. Access to cash in an emergency
Keep information about all the accounts that could give you access to cash, this includes checking, savings, money market, and even home equity accounts. You will need the account numbers and contact information for the financial institution. Most often, a copy of a statement will have all the information you need.
You should also consider including a copy of all your credit and debit cards, both front and back. This will give you the information you need to pay in some cases, or to contact the institution should you need to.
2. Medical Information and Caregivers
Your emergency financial kit should also include information about your preferred medical providers. Having their contact information can ensure you are treated by your preferred provider in an emergency, and in some cases, save you money.
3. Insurance Information
Make copies of ALL your insurance cards. Home, car, medical, dental and prescription. If your home or vehicle are damaged, the insurance information in there may be damaged as well, also, if you end up having to evacuate and leave your home or vehicle, you will not want to return just to retrieve these.
Also make sure you have the contact information for your insurance company and agent. Often in an emergency where companies are swamped with requests, your agent can help you get through or connect you to other resources available to you.
4. Longer Term Investments
Your emergency financial kit should also include copies of paperwork documenting your investments accounts. Your investment accounts include IRA, 401(k), stocks, bonds, 529, or any other retirement or long-term savings account. Also include the contact information for any financial planner or planners who manage these accounts for you.
5. Your Estate Planning Documents
Your Will, Health Care Proxy, and Power of Attorney should always be in a safe place, but especially in an emergency. You should place your paperwork in your emergency financial kit, or the information on how to access them, whether they are with your attorney or a safety deposit box etc…
6. Accessing Your Financial Information online
If all the information for accessing you finances and any other important sites are safely locked away in your memory, you may want to consider including the websites and passwords in your emergency kit, or if you do not feel safe carrying that around, you can provide them to a trusted person who is out of harm’s way. This will allow your family to access important information or funds if you are incapacitated, or simply incommunicado.
With the winter upon us here in Massachusetts, and with the painful lessons the Northeast just learned fresh in our memories, now is a great time to look at your emergency plan. If you have not done much in the way of financial or estate planning, now is a good time to think about that as well, and whether your family would be protected in the worst-case-scenario. Call us to discuss your planning and the best way to protect your family in an emergency.
If you’ve had legal documents drafted in Massachusetts pertaining to your health, financial, and long-term care wishes, you should have them reviewed and revised now! Massachusetts laws relating to powers of attorney and health care proxies have recently changed. This along with federal medical privacy laws can affect your already-created documents.
The federal law, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), generally prevents health care providers from disclosing your personal medical information to anyone other than you and someone you’ve named as your “personal representative.” Frequently you will sign medical releases at your physician’s office allowing them to communicate with any specialists you are seeing, like a podiatrist or a cardiologist. Protecting your medical privacy is very important but the law can create some complications. [Read more…]
When we typically think of estate planning, we see grandma and grandpa putting together a Will and possibly setting up some trusts for the following generations. It’s all about providing for our offspring, right? [Read more…]
In Worcester, just as everywhere else in the nation, there is a tendency for people to put off estate planning. Elder law attorneys, like Kristina Vickstrom, recognize that there are multiple factors that lead people to procrastinate when it comes to the estate planning process. [Read more…]
Most everyone would say that they want to be independent and remain in their own homes as long as possible. This sense of autonomy can be kept in place longer than ever before due to medical advances, assistive devices, and in-home care provided by family members and private caretakers. However, what happens when an elder can no longer remain safely in their home and an adult child is trying to get them the help they need?
Esther is 89 years old. She has lived alone since the death of her husband 23 years ago. She gave up driving two years ago, but is regularly visited by her children and grandchildren, who take care of errands or drive her to handle things herself. Lately, she has been rather unsteady on her feet. Additionally, she has been very forgetful and once left the stove on all night. She is also having trouble remembering to take her medications. There were so many her daughter, Susan, sorts them every week into a pill box. Esther still forgets to take them and sometimes actually doubles up on doses. Susan can see its time for more help but Esther is adamant about not having strangers in the house and doesn’t want to end up in “one of those places…” [Read more…]
There are several websites that offer customized, do-it-yourself wills and other estate planning documents. These computer-based services appear to offer the consumer a cost-effective and convenient alternative to visiting an Estate Planning or Elder Law attorney. Or do they? Is online estate planning worth the convenience and initial savings? How do the documents created compare to those that a qualified attorney would produce? [Read more…]
Some people think that Elder Law and Estate Planning attorneys are only useful further down the road. They think, “I’m healthy. I don’t need to worry about those things now.” Even while you are healthy, there is one document that everyone over the age of 18 should have in place: a Health Care Proxy (HCP). A health care proxy is necessary to ensure that someone, a health care agent, will be available to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them on your own because you are incapacitated. Currently, in Worcester County, another form is also worth considering: the Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) form. This medical order works with the HCP to inform your health care agent and your doctors what you actually want to happen in various circumstances. [Read more…]