4 minute read

Estate Planning for Seniors and their Caregivers

In light of National Caregivers Day, we wanted to take time to show our appreciation and teach people how they can include caregivers in their Estate Plans.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

February 18th is right around the corner– that means it’s almost National Caregivers Day! According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, nearly 66 million Americans serve as caregivers to their parents and other elder loved ones. That’s 29 percent of our adult population! 

In honor of our caregivers, let’s shine a light on the hard work that they do, and how you can show them your appreciation. 

What is a Caregiver?

A caregiver, or caretaker, describes any person who provides care services for another person. Sometimes, a caregiver can be an adult providing care for their parent or other elder loved one. There are also professional caregivers that are contracted through an agency. The caregiver may or may not be paid, based on their relationship with the person who is under care. Many Americans choose to include caregivers in their estate plans as a way to repay them for their hard work and compassion. We will touch on this a bit later.

What Do Caregivers Do?

A caregiver carries out a number of duties, ranging anywhere from personal care to medical care. They can support the individual receiving the care by doing their laundry, cleaning their home, transporting them from place to place, and administering their medication. The list does not end there. Further examples including shopping for and preparing food, coordinating medical visits, and managing financial matters. Caregiving can get very personal depending on the physical or mental ability of the person under care. Feeding, dressing, grooming, walking, and bathing, can also be included in the list of caregiver duties.

As you might imagine, being a caregiver can be tough, arduous, and sometimes thankless work. They work long hours, and often do so with love and compassion. Whether or not you currently have a caregiver, including them in your estate plan is a great way for you to show your thanks and appreciation for them.

The Importance of Estate Planning

Having an estate plan is one of the best ways you can protect your legacy and ensure that it’s passed down properly within your family. What many don’t realize, however, is that estate planning isn’t just about passing down your assets. It’s also a way to establish plans for your  long-term care, and take care of those you care about. 

An iron-clad estate plan can lay out clear decision-making for your loved ones and caregivers during challenging times. It can also provide them with a playbook on how to care for you the way you would desire, should you ever lose your soundness in mind or body. 

How to Have a Conversation about Estate Planning

It’s never easy to have a conversation about end-of-life planning, and some people try to avoid it altogether. Talking about things like death and finances, can be difficult and sometimes triggering. 

Nevertheless, having this conversation is crucial, and it’s best to address it head-on. Having open, mindful conversations about estate planning will make sure everyone’s on the same page. It may feel awkward at first, but in the end, everyone involved will feel reassured and empowered, once a game plan is in place. Here’s some tips on how to have an estate plan talk:

  • Don’t wait to have the conversation: The whole point of estate planning is preparedness, so don’t wait to start talking to your loved ones about the future. It will be much easier and more productive to tackle challenging topics when everyone is in good health and spirits. Don’t wait until you’re already in a pinch, or your decision-making could end up rushed and ill-informed.

  • Practice patience: When talking about difficult topics, it can be tricky to get people to open up. It might be helpful to open your conversation with a story or anecdote to provide context, and to help spark some honest discussion. You should also practice empathy and understand that the conversation may not resolve itself in one go.

  • Get help from a mediator: Because emotions can run high, and things can get tense, you may find it helpful to bring in someone who can mediate the conversation. This could be a professional, such as an estate planning attorney, or a trusted friend of the family or relative who you can trust to keep a level head and stay objective.

Planning for Long-Term Care

Most adults should expect to receive long-term care, especially as they begin to age past the age of 65. We all deserve to live out our golden years in as much comfort, safety, and independence as possible. Being able to do so in our own home is even better. 

That’s why including long-term care in our estate plans is so important. Although it can be hard to look to the future, having a plan in place will empower you, and will give your caregivers the agency they need to do their jobs well. 

In your estate plan, be sure to specify how your long-term care costs will be covered, who will have power of attorney, and your personal desires related to medical situations and end-of-life transitions.

How to Leave Money to your Caregiver

You are entitled to leave money to anyone, and in any amount, of your choosing. However, you want to make sure you do so legally. Establishing a Trust or Will through your estate planning process is the best way to do so. If your caregiver is a family member, such as your child, you could simply leave them an additional sum through your Will or Trust. If you don’t think cash is sufficient compensation, or you don’t have enough cash, you can also transfer assets to them, such as your house, or sentimental belongings. Finally, you could designate them as the beneficiary of your life insurance plan.

If you would like to leave money to your caregiver who is not a family member, you can also do so. However, it’s a great idea to inform your family members in advance of your plans, and to document your intentions clearly. This way, it won’t come as a surprise, and they would not become suspicious that any influence or foul play was at hand. (Hopefully no suspicions would arise regardless, but it’s best to play it safe.) Finally, make sure to update your attorney of these plans, and document that you were sound of mind at the time you made your decision.

Establishing a Trust or a Will might sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be! By working with a professional, you can make estate planning easy, simply, and accessible...when it could be daunting otherwise. In the spirit of National Caregivers Day, show your caregiver your love by getting started on your estate plan that includes them today.


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