Jennifer and her brother always kept an eye on their mother, Ann, who was 91 and suffering from a stroke when she died three months ago. Both siblings made sure they lived near their mother in Oakton, and together they brought her food, took care of the bills, drove her to doctors’ appointments, and oversaw her caretakers.
But Jennifer, a 66-year old real estate agent, cannot hope for the same kind of care when she gets older, because she is divorced and doesn’t have any children. While taking care of her mother, she sometimes thought, “Who will take care of me?” Her brother, Michael, who is four years younger and also childless, may be able to help care for her (and vice versa), but maybe not.
According to census data, in 2010, almost 19 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 44 had not given birth, compared with around 10 percent thirty years prior. Even for those with children, some children are better at caring for aging parents than others, but at least the expectations are clear. As was the case with Jennifer and Michael, children are often the ones to hire caregivers and check up on their parents. With childless people, the lines of responsibility can be unclear.
Do you want to stay at home for as long as possible and receive in-home care? Do you prefer a particular type of assisted living facility? At The Law Firm of Evan Farr, P.C., we recommend that you set up both an Advance Medical Directive that designates someone who could view medical records and handle medical decisions and a Power of Attorney that designates someone to handle your finances. Having these documents in place will ensure that people you trust will carry out your wishes should you become incapacitated. Not having these documents in place puts more stress on the people who are trying to help you. Even worse, these people may not have the legal authority to help you, to speak for you, or to handle your finances! In addition, if childless people don’t want their assets to go to relatives whom they dislike or barely know, they should have a Will or a properly drafted Living Trust.
Childless or not, couples who are unmarried (straight or gay) should understand that without proper legal documents, the partner of an incapacitated person may not be given a say in health care decisions. In addition, without proper planning, the partner of a deceased person may not be allowed to stay in the couple’s house or to gain access to retirement funds or many of the benefits that a traditional married couple would have.
Lastly, but importantly, don’t forget about your pets! A Pet Trust ensures that they will be cared for. Although Jennifer will almost certainly outlive her cocker spaniel, Maggie, she has arranged for her brother to take care of him, just in case.Evan H. Farr on Google +