Are You a Caregiver? What You Need to Know About Estate Planning

Are You a Caregiver? What You Need to Know About Estate Planning

Along with the many other day-to-day duties of a caregiver, attending to estate planning for those they look after can help give peace-of-mind for all concerned.

Quite often caregivers are the same family members who make sure the parents (trustees) have an estate plan, as well as preparing contingency planning for health care. Further, it is important to complete estate planning while the trustees still have the capacity to do so. This can help ensure that the trustee's wishes are respected and their affairs will be managed in the best way for their needs.

So, it is important for family caregivers to know what should be included in an effective estate plan, in particular, as it impacts themselves and the person for which they are providing care. The following key components should be evaluated and discussed with an estate planning attorney:

  • Will - A will is a legal document detailing what an individual wants to happen after they die. This includes their final wishes regarding their remains as well as how they want their money, assets, and property to be distributed.
  • Living Trust - Much like a will, a living or revocable trust also documents how you want your affairs handled after you pass away. The major difference between a will and a living trust is that living trusts do not require probate. Additionally, a living trust will take effect as soon as it is created.
  • Advance Health Care Directive - This allows a person to dictate how they wish to be cared for in a life-or-death situation. It lets your physician, family, and friends know your health care preferences, including the types of special treatment you want or don't want at the end of life, your desire for diagnostic testing, surgical procedures, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and organ donation.
  • Power of Attorney (POA) - This document that allows you to appoint someone to manage your money, property, and medical decisions if you become unable to do so yourself. There are several types of POAs for different situations, so always speak to a lawyer to determine the best option for your situation.

What if the caregiver is giving up their livelihood or lifestyle?

Family caregivers often devote a great deal of their lives to caring for a loved one, giving up their other life interests and even stopping working. Quite often, the caregiver is also a beneficiary, so it is common for these contributions to be acknowledged through compensation while providing the care and/or a special allocation from the trust assets (which sometime involves gifting the residence). This should be explained to other relatives while your loved one is still able to convey their wishes, as well as being clearly detailed in estate planning documents.

How are long-term care costs handled?

If you are the primary caregiver for a loved one and it is determined that a long-term care facility better suits their specific needs, the estate plan can designate specific funds from the estate to cover those costs. Of course, this possibility should be addressed in advance while the trustee has the capacity to work with legal counsel in preparing the estate plan.

There are many other estate planning-related concerns that caregivers may have, such as:

  • What are my legal responsibilities?
  • How do I interact with the executor?
  • If something happens to me, who will take over my role?
  • What if the loved one has dementia?
  • If the loved one dies, what do I need to do?
  • Who will take care of the possessions?

Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney about these and other concerns.

Decades of Experience Working with Caregivers and Trustees

The role of a caregiver in today's world is increasingly important, especially since many elderly people prefer to stay at home instead of moving to a senior care facility. As can be seen, there are many issues and questions to be addressed in order for a caregiver to clearly understand and fulfill his or her role. Further, attending to these items can be crucial in heading off family conflicts.

It is important to document one's wishes before it's too late, so whether you are the trustee or a family caregiver, we invite you to contact Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC at (714) 384-6053 to make an appointment, or use our online contact form. Our website is

Tamsen-Reinheimer_150x100About the author:
Tamsen R. Reinheimer, Attorney, is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law (The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization). She has significant experience in all aspects of estate planning, trust administration, and probate. Contact Tamsen at

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