No Matter How Old He Is— He’s My Son and I’ll Take Care of Him!

Q. I read about a situation where a 98-year-old mom named Ada Keating moved into a senior home to help care for her 80-year-old son, Tom. As a single mom with a son, I could understand wanting to ensure your child is well cared for throughout his life, whether he is 8 or 80!

I can’t imagine even living until I’m 98, and if I do, my son will likely be the one taking care of me! Right now, he’s young, so I have a long time to worry about it!  I’ve always been a single mom, choosing to have a child on my own in my late 30’s. What are some things I can do to make sure my son is planned for and taken care of, should something happen to me? Thanks for your help!

A.  Most parents will do anything for their children, no matter how old they get. In the situation you described, a 98-year-old mother, Ada Keating, did indeed move into the same care home her 80-year-old son so she could look after him. Ada wanted nothing more than to be by her son’s side when she needed him the most. Even in her old age, this mom wanted to be there for her son, and it seems that both mom and son are thankful for the companionship.

According to Ada, “I say goodnight to Tom in his room every night and I’ll go and say good morning to him. I’ll tell him I’m coming down for breakfast. When I go out and come back, he’ll come to me with his arms outstretched and give me a big hug. You never stop being a mom.”

“It’s very touching to see the close relationship both Tom and Ada share and we are so pleased we were able to accommodate both of their needs,” care home manager Philip Daniels said. “It’s very rare to see mothers and their children together in the same care home and we certainly want to make their time together as special as possible. They are inseparable.”

Thank you for bringing such a heartwarming story of a mom and son’s unbreakable bond to our attention! It sounds like you are a very loving mother, as well, and of course there are many things you can do to plan for your son!

Estate Planning Should Be a Priority for Single Parents

As you seem to realize, as a single parent, you must make planning in advance a high priority. If your children do not have a second parent to rely on for their care and financial support, it is even more critical you take steps to provide for them in the event of your death or incapacity.

While you might be fit and in perfect health today, there’s no way to predict the future. Estate planning (including incapacity planning) is an important way of protecting your children’s long-term well-being.

Estate Planning and the Single Parent

Regardless of your circumstances, your estate planning documents should ensure someone will be able to take charge if anything happens to you. While a single parent might be on their own for a number of reasons, such as divorce or death, or making the choice to have a child on your own, the common thread in all of these situations is the physical and financial well-being of the child or children involved.

The following legal documents are important in creating a comprehensive estate plan that focuses on keeping your children safe:

1. Financial Power of Attorney: A Financial Power of Attorney authorizes another person, known as your agent, to manage your financial affairs if you become unable to do so yourself.

A Financial Power of Attorney is an essential document for single parents. With a Financial Power of Attorney, you name a trusted person to pay bills, make bank deposits, collect benefits, and handle other money matters on your behalf. Without this important document, your loved ones will have to go to court to get a conservatorship to manage your financial affairs, and will wind up having to file annual accountings for the rest of your life as part of “lifetime probate.

A well-drafted Financial Power of Attorney covers everything from paying bills to collecting money to managing online accounts. The document is effective during life, so if the single parent is not able to manage their finances because they are incapacitated or simply unavailable, this document kicks in and avoids the need for lifetime probate. The benefits of a Financial Power of Attorney are immeasurable for single parents (and everyone else for that matter).

2. Advance Medical Directive: An Advance Medical Directive appoints someone you trust to make important medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and can no longer make those decisions on your own. An Advance Medical Directive generally names a healthcare agent to make medical decisions for you if you’re incapacitated, and deals with end-of-life medical decisions, and is an important document for everyone, particularly single parents. Our proprietary 4-Needs Advance Medical Directive® also includes our proprietary Long-term Care Directive® a document that allows you to get the best possible long-term care if you wind up needing long-term care and can’t speak for yourself, and includes an After-Death Directive to address your desires with regard to issues such as burial v. cremation, organ donation, and many other decisions that need to be made after death.

3. HIPAA Authorization or Waiver: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits the disclosure of patients’ private medical information to anyone other than the patients themselves. This means your loved ones would be unable to obtain important medical information about your situation if you’re ever incapacitated and unable to deal with the information on your own.

In a single-parent situation, the dissemination of this information can be critical, both for the health of the parent, but also for the care of the child or children involved when something happens to the parent. With this document, the parent would name a short list of people authorized to receive information. The people named in this document cannot make decisions for the parent(unless also named as the heatlhcare Agent under the Advance Medical Directive), but they can get access to critically important information.

4. Will:  A will is essential for the single parent because it not only dictates how your assets will be distributed in the event of your death, but it is the only document that can be used to nominate someone as your children’s guardian – the person or persons to raise your children.

Sometimes it can be challenging to choose the right people to raise your child(ren) if you’re gone. Hopefully, the situation will never arise, but just in case, it is wise to select trustworthy family or friends and, of course, to plan in advance. Please see my article on this subject for some important things that you should consider when deciding who to name as the guardians of your children.

5. Revocable Living Trust: Another useful estate planning document for the single parent is the Revocable Living Trust. A Revocable Living Trust provides for the creator of the trust to have full use and control of the trust assets for life. On the death of the creator, the assets may continue to be held in trust (or may be distributed) for the benefit of the named beneficiaries, usually the grantor’s children.

Setting up a revocable living trust has a number of benefits. While the trust cannot address issues of guardianship, it can do everything else that a will can do, and generally does it better and faster, avoiding the expensive, lengthy, public process of after-death probate.

6. Child Protection Plan: If you’re a mom or dad with one or more children at home under the age of 18, you may need a Child Protection Plan. A Child Protection Plan consists of a set of legal documents that includes an Appointment of Temporary Guardian for someone you choose to take immediate custody of your children, a Parental Consent for Medical Treatment form, and a Medical Information form containing information on your child’s medical allergies and conditions, pediatrician information, health insurance information, immunization record, and medication list. Your Child Protection Plan will also include a special wallet card. The wallet card will be registered with a national database that contains all of the above information on file for each child.

If you are in an accident, your Child Protection Plan will help ensure that your children are never turned over to Child Protective Services because the police don’t have clear instructions from you and, if the unthinkable happens, your Child Protection Plan will help ensure that your children are not turned over to foster care strangers chosen by an overburdened social services system that doesn’t care about your wishes or who you would prefer to take custody of your children. Read more about the Child Protection Plan here.

Plan in Advance for Yourself and Your Loved Ones

Estate planning is an important tool for single parents wishing to protect their families in the event anything happens to them. Having a set of well-drafted and properly executed legal documents to provide for your children’s future care will give you peace of mind that can be truly invaluable.

By planning in advance, you will have the peace of mind that your child will be cared for should something happen to you. To get your estate planning started, please contact us as soon as possible for a no-cost initial consultation:

Estate Planning Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Estate Planning Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Estate Planning Rockville: 301-519-8041
Estate Planning DC: 202-587-2797

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