Trusts versus Wills: What Are the Differences?

Trusts versus Wills: What Are the Differences?

If you or a senior loved one is developing an estate plan, you are likely familiar with the terms will and trust. While most people have heard about these types of estate planning, many struggle to understand their differences.

We created this quick overview to help you learn more.

Understanding the Similarities and Differences between a Will and a Trust

  1. Effective date

One of the differences between a will and a trust is when it goes into effect. A will becomes effective at the time of death. A trust, on the other hand, becomes active immediately after it’s signed.

A trust can be advantageous because it considers circumstances that can occur while the person is alive. This includes mental disabilities like Alzheimer’s or other health issues that can cause incapacitation.

  1. Protection from probate

A will and a trust both control the disbursement of your assets. A will must go trhough probate, a process where the court distributes the assets according to the terms of your will. A trust is not required to go through probate.

  1. Handling of property

To leave property through a trust, the grantor (the person creating the trust) must transfer it into the trust. A living trust can manage and distribute any property that it was funded with. For example, if you transfer your life insurance policy and jointly owned property into the trust, it can legally govern and distribute them according to your wishes.

  1. Minimize tax obligations

One advantage a trust has over a will is that it helps to minimize the total tax obligations of the estate. While it can be expensive to set a trust up initially, that cost can be more than offset by the tax savings.

More Differences between Wills and Trusts

  • Naming an executor/trustee: An executor is a person who oversees any remaining financial obligations after a person’s death. A will allows you to name an executotor. A trustee manages the Trust. In most cases you will be the trustee and upon death or incapacity a successor trustee will take over.
  • Ease of creating: A trust is longer and more comprehensive than a will, and it requires you to transfer your property. A will is typically less complex and only requires two witnesses in most states.
  • Naming guardians for children: Both a will and trust allow you to make provisions for your minor children. In both cases, a court would need to approve the guardian. A trust allows you to instruct the trustee on how and when to distribute the assets. For example, the interest can be used to care for the children and the principle is distributed when the children reach a certain age. A will simply holds the assets until the children are adults.

Creating an Estate Plan That Meets Your Needs

Creating a will is a necessary part of any estate planning process. Whether you need to include a trust depends on your personal situation. At Heritage Senior Communities, we always recommend seniors and families seek help from a professional when creating legal documents. A lawyer with estate planning experience can help you develop a plan to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities offers several senior living options throughout Michigan including assisted living, independent living, specialized dementia care, and respite care. Contact us for more information.

5 Legal Documents Every Caregiver Should Have

5 Legal Documents Every Caregiver Should Have

Dear Donna,

As my parents age, I am starting to think more about their future. I want to help them enjoy the best quality of life as they grow older. To do so, I know I will have to work with their attorney on planning.

What legal documents should I have as a caregiver so I can make decisions on my parents’ behalf?

Jessica in Holland, MI

Legal Documents for Caregivers

Dear Jessica,

It’s great that you are preparing for your parents’ future. Many families wait until a crisis occurs before sorting out their loved one’s preferences. Not only can this make the process more stressful, but it can also affect a family’s ability to properly care for their loved ones. By preparing legal documents in advance, you can help prevent your family from having to make important decisions during stressful times. Here are 5 legal documents family caregivers should have.

5 Legal Documents Every Caregiver Should Have

 

  1. Living will: A living will, also referred to as an advance health care directive, is a document that allows people to record their wishes for end-of-life care. This document will be helpful if your parents become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for themselves. Although Michigan state laws do not consider living wills legally binding, having these documents is a great way to ensure their end-of-life preferences are met.
  2. Durable power of attorney for finances: A power of attorney is a person authorized to manage a person’s finances if they become incapacitated. A power of attorney has access to bank accounts, properties, and other assets. This document is helpful if you need to help your mom or dad pay bills or make important decisions about their finances.
  3. Health care proxy: A health care proxy, also referred to as a durable power of attorney for health care, is a document that authorizes someone to make health care decisions on another’s behalf. This document goes into effect only if they are unable to make decisions for themselves. A health care proxy includes decisions regarding health care providers and medical treatments. Proxies can even refuse treatments.
  4. Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders: DNR orders inform medical providers not to perform CPR if a patient’s heart stops beating. In Michigan, DNR orders are only valid when the person is home or at an assisted living community. If your mom or dad doesn’t want to be revived, their wishes should be documented in a DNR order.
  5. HIPAA authorization form: A HIPAA authorization form is another document that can be extremely useful to caregivers. While HIPAA rules usually allow medical professionals to give information to caregivers, obstacles still arise. A HIPAA authorization can prevent unnecessary complications and provide you with access to your loved one’s medical information.

Preparing Legal Documents

Having legal documents prepared in advance is one of the best ways to ensure you meet your parents’ wishes. At Heritage, we always recommend you seek advice from an elder law attorney when creating legal documents. They can help you understand state laws, review your documents, and walk you through the process of verifying that they will hold up in court.

I hope this encourages you and your parents to start preparing legal documents!

Regards,

Donna

 

Heritage Senior Communities Offers Personalized Support

Heritage Senior Communities provides high quality care for seniors across Michigan. Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland, for example, offers personalized support with daily meals, laundry, and housekeeping. Contact us today to schedule a tour.

5 Ways to Start the Conversation About Senior Living

5 Ways to Start the Conversation About Senior Living

Dear Donna,

Last year, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. At first, our whole family chipped in to help, and we were able to work together as a team to provide care for him. Now, as things settle down and in to a routine, my siblings come around less and I’m mostly left to take care of my dad alone.

My mom tries to help, but she is overwhelmed, too. I’m afraid to talk to them about a senior living community. I don’t want to stress them out more. What should I do?

Sincerely,

Carrie from Saline, MI

How to Initiate a Conversation about Senior Living with a Loved One

Dear Carrie,

It sounds like you are doing a great job caring for your dad! But there are many senior care options for you and your family to consider. It sounds like, as you said, the right option might be helping your parents transition to a senior living community. Beginning that conversation can be difficult for both the adult child and their older loved one.

Here are 5 pointers to help you:

  1. Listen

A good way for you to start the conversation is actually to just listen. Ask your parents what they like about living in their home. Use these points to make the transition more positive, and redirect the notion that they are losing an aspect of their life. In addition, ask them about their opinions or knowledge of senior communities. By doing your own research first, you can immediately address any misconceptions they have.

  1. Use positive language

If you want to paint a positive picture, use positive language. Be sure to use the word “community” and never “home” or “facility.” Talk about the opportunities they’ll have and the many ways this community will make their lives easier and more fun!

  1. It’s not all sewing and bingo

There are so many activities in a senior living community. From social gatherings to special outings, your senior loved ones will have something to do any time they want. And surrounded by their peers, they’ll be making new friends and might even try something they never knew about before. Most seniors actually say they wish they’d made this transition sooner!

  1. Keep the door open

Seniors often feel stress about this transition and are fearful that they will lose their independence. Let your senior loved ones know they don’t have to decide today—it can be an ongoing discussion. Reassure them that they will have a say. But it’s also important to remember that diseases do progress, sometimes rapidly. The conversation you were having a couple months ago will likely change as your parents age. Even if they don’t like the sound of a senior living community at first, it doesn’t mean they didn’t hear the positives. Revisiting the conversation can be helpful.

  1. Test the waters

Finally, it never hurts to take a tour of a nearby community. This is your opportunity to talk to staff and residents and to take an in-depth look at the daily details of living in a senior community. You can also let your loved ones know about short-term stays so that they can give it a try without committing!

As a bonus, May is National Parkinson’s Month, so there may even be events especially for seniors like your father. Check out the events at a Heritage Senior Community near you, and contact them for more information.

Kind regards,

Donna

4 Foods That Help Fight Caregiver Fatigue

4 Foods That Help Fight Caregiver Fatigue

Caregiving comes with a never-ending list of responsibilities. The mental exertion required often leaves caregivers stressed out and exhausted before the day has even started. This is so common that it has a name: caregiver fatigue.

One way caregivers can alleviate fatigue is by eating healthy. A diet high in nutrition and low in processed foods can not only give caregivers more energy, but it can improve their mood while reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Here’s how caregivers can use food to help fight caregiver fatigue.

Foods to Avoid

When feeling low on energy, it’s normal to reach for caffeinated beverages and sugary snacks. They are convenient and provide instant relief. Unfortunately, the energy you get from them is short-lived and can leave you feeling worse than you did before.

A few foods that can lead to a crash include:

  • Caffeine: Consuming caffeine, primarily later in the day, can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep can significantly worsen symptoms of fatigue. Try to limit caffeinated beverages like coffee to a single cup in the morning.
  • Sugar: Sugar is notorious for resulting in a crash. Do your best to avoid sugary snacks like pastries and soda.
  • Simple carbohydrates: Simple carbs like bread and pasta taste great. However, they do little to keep you satisfied when eaten alone. If you eat carbs, consider pairing them with a lean protein.
  • Processed foods: Processed foods are often full of preservatives, sodium, and other ingredients that can slow you down. It’s best to avoid them altogether.

Foods That Help Fight Caregiver Fatigue

Rather than opting for quick fixes, caregivers can try eating natural foods that provide long-lasting energy. Here are a few foods that help fight fatigue:

  1. Lean protein: It takes longer to digest lean protein than refined carbs. Foods that take longer to digest help sustain your energy levels, reducing the chance of a crash. Try to incorporate lean proteins like white-meat poultry and lean fish into your diet regularly.
  2. Leafy green vegetables: Vegetables contain micronutrients that are essential for energy. Spinach, in particular, contains iron that helps red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body. It also contains magnesium, which relaxes your muscles to help you fall asleep.
  3. Complex carbohydrates: Complex carbs are great for giving you long-lasting energy. They contain more nutrients than simple carbs and help you stay full. When selecting carbs, consume those that are rich in fiber like brown rice and oatmeal.
  4. Vitamin C: Vitamin C can help fight fatigue and infections. One lemon can provide you with up to 40% of your daily intake of Vitamin C. Lemons also contain potassium, which is crucial for brain and nerve function. Lemon water, in particular, has been shown to be a great alternative to a morning coffee. It hydrates while boosting your metabolism and preventing insulin spikes.

Heritage Supports a Healthy Diet

The fatigue that often comes with caregiving can make it difficult to eat a healthy diet. But getting proper nutrition isn’t just essential for your well-being, it’s equally important for your caregiving ability.

If your caregiving role is causing you to experience chronic fatigue, it may be time to consider respite care. Heritage Senior Communities offers respite care options that allow caregivers to take a much-needed break without sacrificing their loved ones’ care. Contact us today to learn more about our respite care services.

How Do I Start a Conversation with My Mom about Assisted Living?

How Do I Start a Conversation with My Mom about Assisted Living?

Dear Donna,

After visiting my mother over the holidays, I noticed a few signs that she may no longer be able to live on her own.

She had dishes piled in the sink and her laundry basket was overflowing. This is very unusual for my mother because she has always been very tidy.

How do I start a conversation with my mom about assisted living?

Sincerely,

Erica from Saline, MI

 

Starting a Conversation about Assisted Living

 

Dear Erica,

Starting a conversation about assisted living is rarely easy. Many family members are hesitant to bring up the topic for fear they will upset their loved ones. This causes them to delay the conversation, sometimes until an accident or illness forces the discussion.

Talking about assisted living under these conditions can make the process far more stressful. It can result in unnecessary arguments, and can even harm your relationship.

An accident also forces you to rush the process. This can significantly limit the time you have to thoroughly evaluate your options.

To avoid the consequences of waiting, it’s best to start the conversation as soon as possible. Here are a few tips for you to start the conversation about assisted living.

 

4 Tips to Start a Conversation about Assisted Living

 

  1. Do your research.

Before attempting to start a conversation about assisted living, do your research. Becoming knowledgeable about assisted living in Michigan will enable you to have a productive discussion and be a resource for your loved one. This will encourage them to come to you with their questions.

  1. Approach the topic with empathy.

When discussing a potentially sensitive topic like assisted living, it’s crucial to approach the conversation with the intent to understand the other person.

Older adults have their own opinions about assisted living. For seniors, assisted living can mean:

  • Leaving the home they’ve lived in for a long time.
  • Admitting they need help.
  • Feeling like they’re losing their independence.

Taking the time to listen to their concerns will make them feel more comfortable discussing their feelings with you.

  1. Start talking about assisted living early.

Moving to an assisted living community is a huge, life-changing event. It’s probably going to require more than one discussion.

This is one of the biggest reasons to bring up the topic early. Your loved one may not immediately understand why you are concerned. They might not see the benefits associated with moving to a community.

Bringing your concerns to their attention early on will allow them time to soak in what you’ve told them.

  1. Put your relationship first.

It’s important to remember to put your relationship with your loved one first. If the conversation leads to arguments or becomes hostile in any way, you may need to take a step back. You may even have to accept that you aren’t the right person to have the discussion.

Some seniors take advice better from certain family members than others. Some loved ones may even require a professional like a doctor or a geriatric care manager to advise them to transition to assisted living before they start to listen.

I hope this helps you start a conversation with your mother about assisted living!

Sincerely,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities

Starting a conversation about assisted living can be challenging for many families. After all, it requires them to admit they need help and consider leaving a home they’ve likely lived in for a long time.

Heritage Senior Communities, including our Linden Square Assisted Living Center, provide support to make the conversation about assisted living easier for seniors and their families. Contact us for more information.

 

How Can I Tell If It’s Time for My Uncle to Give up Driving?

How Can I Tell If It’s Time for My Uncle to Give up Driving?

Dear Donna,

My uncle recently turned 86 years old. He’s in pretty good shape for his age, but I’m concerned that he is getting too old to drive.

How can I tell if it’s time for my uncle to give up driving?

Sincerely,

Melissa from Holland, MI

 

How to Tell When It’s Time to Stop Driving

 

Dear Melissa,

Knowing when it’s time to give up driving can be hard. There is no set age when a person is supposed to stop driving. Some adults drive well into their nineties without any problems while others are forced to give up their keys sooner.

While age alone doesn’t determine a person’s ability to drive, there are age-related changes that can affect a person’s ability to drive safely. This includes physical changes like reduced mobility and vision loss. Cognitive changes like a slower reaction time can also affect driving.

Here are a few signs to help you determine if it’s unsafe for a senior loved one to drive.

 

Signs It May Be Time for Seniors to Give up Driving

 

  1. Their driving performance

One of the easiest ways to determine if a loved one is safe on the road is to evaluate their driving performance. Next time you go out, ask them to drive.

Here are a few signs of unsafe driving:

  • Trouble staying in their lane
  • Long pauses at stop signs and red lights
  • Driving above or below the speed limit
  • Riding the brake
  • Difficulty parking
  • Riding up the curb

If you notice any of these red flags, it may be a good idea to bring it to their attention.

  1. Their state of mind

Your loved one’s state of mind while driving can say a lot about their driving ability. Here are a few emotions that can affect their ability to drive safely:

  • Nervousness: Many older adults become nervous on the road; this can affect their driving.
  • Confusion: Being confused can indicate they are unsure of what to do during certain situations.
  • Irritation: Does your loved one get irritated easily while driving? Unnecessary road rage can be their way of coping with stress and frustration while driving.

If your loved one demonstrates any of these emotions, it may be a good idea to talk to them about how they feel about driving. They could be lacking confidence in their own driving ability.

  1. Health conditions that could affect their driving

Many health conditions can affect a person’s ability to drive. Here are a few conditions that are common among seniors:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: Alzheimer’s disease causes cognitive difficulties that can make driving unsafe. Seniors can forget where they are going, make poor decisions, and get lost.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis causes stiffness in the joints, which can make driving painful. This can make turning the wheel and other movements necessary to drive incredibly difficult. They can even have trouble getting in and out of the car.
  • Glaucoma: Glaucoma makes it difficult to see out of central vision. Cyclists, pedestrians, and even other cars can be missed.
  • Age-related macular degeneration: Another condition that affects vision is macular degeneration. This can make it difficult to see signs, traffic signals, and pedestrians.

If your loved one has any of these conditions, it may be time to talk to your loved one about hanging up their keys.

I hope this helps you determine if it’s time for your senior loved one to stop driving!

Regards,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities Promote Senior Safety

Heritage Senior Communities encourage senior safety in our assisted living communities throughout Michigan. Contact us today to learn more about our senior living options or to schedule a private tour at one of our locations, such as Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland.