How Proper Estate Planning Can Help Prevent Elder Abuse

How Proper Estate Planning Can Help Prevent Elder AbuseElder abuse is an unfortunate reality that can wreak havoc on a person’s life and finances. Estate planning is a simple way to safeguard your rights and physical, emotional and financial well-being. Having a wills and estate attorney helps you create vital documents such as powers of attorney, an advance directive, a will and tools like trusts can help prevent elder abuse and ensure that your assets are protected and distributed according to your wishes.

Anyone Can Be a Victim of Undue Influence or a Scam

Physical and mental decline can make older people vulnerable to being taken advantage of, especially in the lonely days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, elder abuse is often overlooked until it is too late to remedy the situation, especially if a trusted family member, friend, or caregiver is the one exerting undue influence or perpetrating the abuse. Physical, emotional, and financial abuse can be devastating to victims and their families. This is just one reason why it is never too early to speak to an estate planning attorney and create a plan that addresses your specific needs and circumstances.

Estate Planning Documents that Can Help Prevent Elder Abuse

Although a will is a key element of an estate plan, there are other documents that protect your interests while you are still alive.

Advance Directive (Living Will) – This document outlines your wishes for medical treatments, including life-sustaining measures, pain management, and organ donation.

Power of Attorney for Health Care – This is a legal document that enables you to name an agent to make important medical decisions on your behalf. These decisions may involve treatment options,  medication, life-sustaining measures such as breathing and feeding tubes, end-of-life decisions, and more.

Power of Attorney for Finances – This document allows you to name someone to handle your financial affairs if you become unable to do so. Your agent will have the ability to pay bills, manage investments, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. They may also file tax returns on your behalf, take care of property transactions and other financial matters. You can make it as general or as specific as you would like.

Living TrustsTrusts attorneys can also help you understand the different types of trusts and their purposes, and advise you of your options. When you create a living trust, you can name yourself as the initial trustee, and designate a successor trustee that takes control in the event of your incapacity or death.  You can put various types of assets into a living trust, including real estate, stocks, cash, and even personal property that has value. In addition to protecting your finances should you become incapacitated, a living trust also enables the assets in the trust to bypass probate after your death. Probate attorneys often recommend that clients set up living trusts to help make the estate administration process easier for their loved ones.

Choose Wisely

When selecting a designated agent or trustee, it is important to choose someone you trust who will have your best interests at heart. Making these decisions can be challenging. Your attorney can provide an objective perspective that can help you make informed decisions that protect your interests. For example, if you own rental properties and plan to put them in a trust but do not have anyone in your life who you believe would be able to properly manage them, your lawyer may suggest that you hire a professional such as a real estate attorney to act as trustee.

Taking steps to protect yourself while you are still healthy and of sound mind is a proactive way to help prevent elder abuse and ease any concerns your loved ones may have about your care and financial security. If you need assistance with estate planning, our experienced team can help.