By: Howard “Jack” Weyers, Jr., Attorney/Principal @ Family and Elder Law of Mid-Michigan, P.C.
Typically, when you want to put something together the right way, you read the instruction manual. Just think how lost we’d be if we bought products that required assembly but didn’t provide instructions. Too often, in our practice, we encounter folks who have very strong opinions about where, how, and by whom they want to be cared for should they become unable to care for themselves, but they’ve neither taken time to memorialize those wishes in an instruction manual, nor have they figured out how to pay for the kind of care they desire. To make matters worse, recent statistics indicate that over 70% of people turning 65 in 2019 will need some type of long-term care in their lifetime1.
The instruction manual I’m speaking of is usually comprised of two or more documents known as powers of attorney or advance directives. While many people have taken the time to engage in some sort of estate and incapacity planning, oftentimes the documents we’re reviewing are thin on instructions and name agents that aren’t the right people to carry out those instructions. When the person who created these documents becomes incapacitated confusion, stress, and family dissension often follow. The time when the most desirable result would be clarity about the individual’s wishes and the family rallying together to that person’s aid, becomes just the opposite.
The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never held more true. Having a few frank, guided conversations will help to crystallize one’s wishes related to long-term care and end-of-life situations.
Commonly, people desire (or expect) that their family members care for them and act as surrogate decisionmakers. Conversations with children and grandchildren often unveil very different ideas about how these roles will be filled. While it is one of the most difficult conversations to have, the results of having a family discussion of how, by whom, and where one wants to be cared for can be invaluable.
Before finalizing these documents, a meeting with a financial advisor should reveal the amount of financial resources available to fund the care and whether asset protection planning and/or planning to apply for governmental benefits should be considered. Potential potholes and opportunities are often unveiled that guide future planning and open the family’s eyes to the realities of long-term care.
These discussions should be followed up by a meeting with an elder law attorney to create the instruction manual by memorializing the results in a holistic plan that includes a durable power of attorney naming someone to handle legal and financial matters (with clear instructions as to how money should be spent), a patient advocate designation naming someone to handle decisions related to care, custody, medical and mental health treatment (with clear instructions as to how that care should be provided), and a personal care plan outlining where, by whom, and how the patient desires to be cared for in long-term care situations (including very specific instructions of the likes and dislikes of the patient). Finally, there may be some opportunities to employ trusts or other estate and financial planning structures to protect assets and pay for care.
Once these documents are created, the family should meet again to go over the instruction manual to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands the plan for your long-term care. Reading a Will after a funeral is a thing of the past. It really makes sense to develop a plan that addresses incapacity issues while alive and distribution assets after death and to discuss that plan fully with family members so that everything is on the table upfront. Then, when difficult situations arise, like incapacity or death, the family knows what to do—follow the instructions—making family unity rather than strife much more probable.
HOWARD “JACK” WEYERS, JR.
Mr. Weyers is a graduate of Okemos High School, Spring Arbor University, and Western Michigan Thomas M. Cooley Law School and has lived and worked in Mid-Michigan since 1973. Currently, Jack resides in Okemos with his wife and children.
After a 20-year career as Michigan-licensed life and health insurance agent working in the employee benefits industry wherein Jack served in several capacities including Chief Executive Officer, at WEYCO INC., Mr. Weyers decided to return to school to complete his undergraduate education.
While he was attending Spring Arbor University, Jack’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Prior to his mother’s death in 2013, Jack served as one of his mother’s primary caregivers and, as such, gained a deep understanding of the plight of those suffering from dementia as well those who care for them. Jack’s experience with his mother inspired him to find a career path that would allow him to be of service to not only those families who have a member that suffers with Alzheimer’s disease but also to the elderly in general as well as to families with children who have special needs. Additional experience gained while participating in the Sixty Plus Elderlaw Clinic at Cooley solidified Jack’s desire to be of aid to the elderly and those with special needs.
Mr. Weyers graduated magna cum laude from Cooley in January 2015. While at Cooley, Jack earned nine Certificates of Merit and served as associate editor on the Thomas M. Cooley Journal of Practical and Clinical Law. Mr. Weyers practice areas include wills, trusts, probate, and long-term care and special needs planning.
If you’d like to learn more about how to create your instruction manual, please consider attending a seminar with Family and Elder Law of Mid-Michigan, P.C.
You can also download Equanimity Wealth Management’s Long-Term Care Free Guide here for more information.
Howard Weyers, Jr is not affiliated with CWM, LLC or Cetera Advisor Networks, LLC.