Yes! Your Parents Finances Are Your Business


I am not sure how or why money, especially your parent’s money, became such a taboo topic.

“It was well understood in my home that you did not ask any questions about money. If you did you would quickly be told that it was none of your business. And since I was taught to respect my elders I did not ask. Oh, how I wish I would have!” ~Carol

Carol’s Parents Were Very Proud.

They were also frugal. And privacy was important to them. Carol and her brother had no idea what their parent’s financial situation was. When Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease Carol and her brother tried to broach the topic again but Dad refused to have the conversation. They backed off, not wanting to upset either parent.



Dementia Creeps In

As with some Parkinson’s patients, dementia was part of the process. It soon became clear that Carol and Jim’s Mom could not take care of their Dad alone. Their Dad was a large man. He was 6’4 and weighed about 240 lbs. He began having a series of falls. And he would get angry and then confused when this happened.

Marie, Carol, and Jim’s Mom was a small woman. She was 5’3” tall and just a wee bit over 100 lbs. There was no way she could lift her husband James when he fell.

Several of the neighbors helped. But Marie hated to be an imposition and James was embarrassed. A few times she even had to call the fire department to help in the middle of the night.

Protecting Their Adult Children

And they kept this information from Carol and Jim. Marie didn’t want to worry the children. Carol lived 4 hours away. Jim lived closer but he was busy with his work and his own family. He stopped by every week or two. But this was not enough to get a clear picture of what was going on.

The Crisis

Then Marie had a heart attack. She was rushed to the hospital and had to have surgery. Jim and Carol had their eyes preyed wide open.  Staying with Dad they wondered how their Mom was able to take care of dad this past couple of years.

Getting Answers

social worker

The social worker at the hospital wanted to help. But the problem was without knowing about their parent’s financial situation it would be hard. Mom would stay in the hospital for a week or so and then would be transferred to a rehabilitation facility to heal and get her strength back. 20 to 30 days would most likely be all that Medicare would pay for. After that, the family would be responsible to pay for their care.

The fact is Marie could not continue to try to care for her husband alone. And Jim and Carol both worked and had families to care for also. And it was also clear that Dad needed around the clock care.

There Were a Lot of Care Options.

From home care to assisted living to care homes and nursing homes. And for 24-hour care, the costs ranged from $3500 to over $12,000 per month. And without knowing what their parent’s financial situation was, Carol and Jim had their hand’s tied.

It was pretty clear that Dad could not make the financial decisions. With Marie out of the house, he became agitated and more confused than ever. Though Mom would heal with time and only need minimal assistance, Dad was a different story. James needed someone to assist him 24 hours a day.

Help From an Attorney

Two middle aged friends on a computer.

Luckily Marie was able to recover. She and her children sat down with an Elder Law Attorney to make sure all of the necessary paperwork was in place. Furthermore, their attorney was knowledgeable of the local eldercare community. As such, she was able to refer them to the right professionals who could help. And the good news was, they had a long-term care policy and James qualified for VA Aid and Attendance benefits. The attorney would be able to help them get these benefits.

This is Not an Uncommon Story.

And while this story turned out to have a silver lining, not all families are that lucky. Some may need help to apply for Medicaid benefits. The truth may be that mom and Dad do not have any savings or a long-term care policy to help. These families also need to help of an Elder Law Attorney. Applying for Medicaid is quite a process. Most families need assistance to make sure everything is done correctly. With a couple, it is important that there is still some income for the spouse to live on.

Free Elder Law Workshops- No Charge and No Obligation

Though the details may change somewhat from family to family, many find themselves in this predicament.  Attend one of the workshops that we offer at no charge. Discover what you need to know to plan for the future. Do it for yourself and for those you love. See Our Workshop Schedule


Medical Directives- Helping You Have Control Over How You Die


While we all hope that we will just drift away and die in our sleep one day, the reality is this is not what usually happens.

Portrait of beautiful smiling 45 years old woman

Judy and her two sisters wanted to do everything possible to keep dad alive. They were willing to do whatever measures were available to keep him alive. And to keep their hope alive. A feeding tube was inserted to help dad get the nutrition she needed. He was given antibiotics to keep infection at bay. One medical intervention after another was offered. The sisters accepted everything hoping and praying for a miracle.

Their brother John, on the other hand, was appalled. “This is not what Dad would have wanted! We need to let him go!”

His sisters accused him of not caring. The said he was being selfish. And so, the family divide began.

And in the end, Dad died. After all, he was 88 years old. No matter what they tried he was just not able to recover from the stroke he had.

And the damage had been done. His children were no longer speaking.

Do you want life-sustaining treatment when you are nearing the end?

Whether the answer is yes or no to this question doesn’t matter. This is a personal choice. What does matter is that your family knows your wishes? And it needs to be in writing. Everything should be clearly spelled out. There are two documents that you should have in place. One is a DNR and the other is a POLST.

What is a DNR?

DNR stands for Do Not Resuscitate. This order alerts doctors, nurses, and emergency personnel that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should not be used to keep a person alive in case of a medical emergency.  Someone who is ill may want to refuse any life-sustaining treatment. As such they may have a DNR on file with their doctors, hospital and other personnel.

What is a POLST?

This acronym stands for Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment. This is a binding document with your doctor. It is kept as part of your medical files. A POLST declares a patient’s preference for receiving certain life-sustaining treatments. Other treatment options the patient does not want will also be included as a part of this document.

If you do not want to have a feeding tube, antibiotics or to be hydrated you need to make your wishes known. Had Judy and John’s dad had this document in place the family may still be intact. Instead, harsh accusations were made in a time of grief.

This document should be made when you are not in a medical crisis that could affect your decision making.

And there are other documents you also need to have in place. Planning ahead will help your family make the best decisions for your care according to your wishes.


The Hilbun Law Firm offers free weekly Workshops.  Both evening and lunchtime workshops are available. RSVP for one today! View our calendar.


Family Conversations

 5 Family Conversations You Must Have With Your Aging Parents


Tis the season when families gather together to celebrate and to give thanks. From Thanksgiving to the 1st of the New Year there are celebrations no matter what your faith. And families are often together for those celebrations.

While some families see each other often others may only connect during the holiday season. Whether you are together often or only a few times a year there are important conversations that need to happen.

Unfortunately, in our society, some of these topics may be considered taboo. If you have aging parents and you have not had these conversations with them now may be the time. While I do not suggest doing this at the holiday dinner table or celebration it is important to schedule a time to talk.

Here Are 5 Conversations That Are a Must-Have.

The Money Talk

“In my family talking about money was taboo. Especially asking your parents how much they have. I sure wish I would have broken that rule. Not knowing put the family in a bind when dad had an unexpected stroke.” Claire

Questions you need to ask include:

  1. What’s their financial situation?
  2. Where are their accounts located?
  3. Do they have Life or Long-Term Care Insurance?
  4. Do they have enough to pay their bills right now?
  5. What if they live another ten or twenty years?
  6.  Do they have a will?
  7. Do you know where the will is, and the name of the estate planning attorney who created it?
  8.  Do they have powers of attorney for finances in place?

The Health Talk

Who is their primary Care doctor? Are there any specialists?

What type of Medicare Plan are they on? (Medicare advantage or Original Medicare with a supplement?) You should know where their paperwork is located.

Do they take medications? For what conditions? You may suggest that they post a list on their current medications on the refrigerator. This will allow for easy access by you or an emergency medical professional who is called in an emergency.

Have they properly documented a power of attorney for healthcare?

The Aging Talk

Grandmother with her daughter

What plans do they have if they are no longer able to care for themselves? Would they be open to going to an assisted living facility or a nursing home? Do they know the costs associated with care at home? Do they know how much they will pay for care elsewhere? And finally, will their funds support long-term care?

If they really want to stay in their home a home assessment is in order. Making the home a safe environment for someone who may have physical limitations can keep them in that home much longer. Falls are the #1 reason that seniors end up in the hospital. Though all falls cannot be avoided, making a few changes at home may eliminate some falls.

What if someone is no longer able to drive? What options are available? Nowadays, there are so many options available. Not being able to drive yourself is not as big of a problem as it once was. A lot of seniors do not want to be dependent on their adult children for transportation. With Uber and Lyfte this is not a problem.

But chances are your aging parent does not know how these programs work.  GoGo Grandparent makes it easy!  When seniors have options that keep them in control, they are more likely to hang up the car keys.

The End of Life Talk

An elderly lady sits pensivel

This is often the hardest talk to have. But there really is no time like the present. Do they have a medical directive or a living will? How do they feel about extreme measures being taken to sustain life if they are incapacitated?

Also, ask if they have pre-planned their funeral. You will need to know where these papers are kept. Are they planning cremation or traditional burial? Ask what is important to them about their funeral?

The Family Legacy Talk

This is a much lighter and brighter conversation to have. What do they want the family to remember about them? Are there family recipes, photo books, treasured heirlooms, videos or jewelry they want to pass along? Are there stories they want to share?

Estate planning attorneys, like the Hilbun Law Firm, work with families and aging issues on a regular basis.  Attending a workshop together is a great way to start getting the conversation going. Then schedule a consultation, your attorney can help you and your parents make decisions. They’ll know about issues you may not even be aware of.

Attend a Free Estate Planning workshop at the Hilbun Law Firm and get this conversation started!

Power of Attorney

Mom Refuses to Give Me Power of Attorney


“On top of that, she does not have a will!” Kimm cried

Kimm’s mom has COPD and Kimm is her only child. We recently had the discussion about the need to have different documents in order. Having a will is important and may help you to avoid costly probate.

And You Need Other Documents Also

But there are other documents that may be important to have in place also. A Power of Attorney (POA) is one of these such documents. Kimm’s mother is afraid she will be giving up her ability to make her own financial and medical decisions. This is a common concern among many seniors.

Nothing Could Be Further from The Truth

But Kimm’s Mom Caren has no need to worry. She is in good health and her mind is sharp. As such the document could not be used to override any decisions she might make. However, if she were to become ill or be in an accident the Power of Attorney could be a really useful tool. If Caren were incapacitated and medical decisions needed to be made her daughter would have her hands tied without a POA.

Accidents, a Stroke or Sudden Illness

Power of Attorney

Likewise, if she were incapacitated for a long period someone would need to be able to manage her finances. Bills still need to be paid. Someone who has a stroke could be incapable of managing their finances for months or even longer.

If Caren loves and trusts her daughter to make good decisions for her in a crisis she needs to appoint her as a power of attorney. If she feels her daughter would make poor decisions or not act in her best interest then she should choose someone else to fulfill that role. Without a power of attorney in place, Caren will be at the mercy of the medical team. Her financial situation could also be in jeopardy.

What about Guardianship?

True, Kimm could file to become her mother’s guardian if something happened. However, the process is long and quite costly. At a time when Kimm will want to spend time caring for and loving her mom, she will be frustrated. Having a parent in the hospital is stressful enough. And just going through the legal process can be exhausting. Put the two together and the situation can become overwhelming.

So How Do I Get Mom to Listen?

This can be a real challenge. A lot of how you approach an elderly loved one will depend on your relationship with them. If you describe the relationship as challenging (meaning you butt heads a lot) you may need to have a mediator. This could be a pastor you both like, a valued friend or relative, or an attorney or other paid mediator.

The Key is You Need to Communicate.

You need to communicate how you feel about life, death and everything in between.  You may have different beliefs about medical intervention. One may believe that everything possible should be done no matter what. The other may feel that heroic measures should not be taken when the prognosis is low.

How do you feel? And how does your parent feel? Can you respect their beliefs? Do they have a living will in place to ensure their desires are respected? Having a discussion like this is important. And make sure you are listening. This is not the time or the conversation to try to sway your parent to your way of thinking. Instead, this is a time to learn about their beliefs and desires.

Do You Have Your Documents in Place?

So you want Mom to get all of her ducks in a row. You want to make sure she has a POA, will, Living will and anything else that could be needed. But do you have your documents in place? If you are 18 or older you should. Let’s face it, accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of age.

Attend a Workshop Together

In fact, get other family members involved. Ask mom if she has a friend or neighbor who could be interested too. The more the merrier! This way it will not feel like you are trying to boss her around. And you will all get the facts! If you are getting documents in order for your family it will seem natural for her to do the same. Add other family members into the equation and the idea will be reinforced. Now it is a smart decision that she is making.

The Hilbun Law Firm has weekly workshops. They are no charge and we promise you will have fun learning with us. Remember, what you don’t know will hurt you. See the schedule here.


Big Changes for Aid & Attendance Benefits


Our veterans have graciously fought for us. We love them,  are proud of them and for many of us, they just so happen to also be members of our families. If that is the case for you or your family, listen up-this piece is for you! Effective October 30th, 2018 the VA pension plan regulations are bound to change.

Aid & Attendance (A&A) and Housebound Eligibility

Long Term Care Options

According to the VA Benefits webpage, VA pension eligible veterans who require the attendance/assistance of another person (ie. a nurse or a family member) may now qualify for additional monetary payment.


These veterans must be in eligible wartime service status, with 90 days active duty at least one day within the confines of WWII, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam Era Conflicts, or the Gulf War. This does not replace the pre-existing pension agreement that the veteran already has, but is a supplementary addition to the monthly allowance. The qualifiers are based on the following:

-The veteran requires the aid of another person in order to perform 2 or more everyday personal functions.

-The veteran is bedridden (ie. the veterans disability/ies require time in bed for a prescribed amount of time)

-The veteran is in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapability

-The veteran’s eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less. This can be in either or both eyes or a concentric contraction of the field of vision to 5 degrees or less.


In regards to eligibility for the Homebound, the veteran must be substantially confined to your immediate premises because of a permanent disability to qualify for additional pension payments.

Aid & Attendance and Housebound Ineligibility


Because these A&A allowances increase the monthly pension amount, those that are not eligible for basic pensions due to excessive income may not be eligible for these benefits. The veterans net worth is not to exceed federally established Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance, which currently stands at 123,600 USD. The VA will now look back at the finances of the past 3 years to decide whether or not candidates are eligible for these benefits. This is a new addition to VA benefit qualifications.


Additionally, Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UME) are deductible from net worth calculation as they apply, licensed care professionals must provide the UMEs. These UME must not be spent on certain non-care related medical expenses like HI premiums. Family caregiver payments are no longer accepted as valid UMEs unless said family member is properly licensed by the state. In addition to this, a veteran or a surviving spouse of a veteran may not receive A&A and Housebound benefits at the same time.


How to Apply

One may apply for Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits by acquiring the services of Hilbun Elder Law Firm to assist with the A & A application process. They will assist with the writing and sending of the documents to your local VA benefits center. To enlist their services, one must come with the necessary documents.


Upon arrival, one would be advised to include copies of any evidence of aid and attendance or housebound status. These documents are preferred to be a report from an attending physician that can validate the need for A&A or Housebound type care. A call to Hilbun would help to assess whether or not the documents one has are valid.


These documents should provide sufficient detail to determine whether there is a disease of injury-producing physical or mental impairment, loss of coordination, or conditions affecting the ability to conduct daily living activities without assistance. Examples of activities needing assistance are:

  • dressing,
  • feeding,
  • toileting and making themselves presentable.


Regardless if the claim is for A&A or for housebound status, the applicant must present information addressing the abilities of each applicant. This should include information like how well the applicant gets around, where they go, and what they are able to do in a day. It is also important to determine if the claimant is confined to the home or immediate premises.


Contact Hilbun Elder Law for any other questions or inquiries about the new A & A and Housebound benefits.

3 Reasons You Need To Discuss Finances and Legal Issues With Your Parents




Okay, I get it.

It is an uncomfortable topic. Many families do not discuss finances. It is considered taboo. And children are taught to stay out of their parent’s personal business. That includes their finances.


And This Needs to Change.


Many problems that wind up in our office could have been avoided. Proper planning a communication with the whole family can eliminate a lot of headaches we see.


Rolling the Dice

Let’s face it, tragedy can strike at any time. However, the older we get the higher the odds are that an accident or illness may happen. Are you really ready to roll the dice?

1. A Fall or Other Accident May Leave You Physically Incapacitated

Long Term Care Options

If we have heard it once we have heard this story a thousand times. Mom or dad has fallen and winds up in the hospital. They are incapacitated. However, no one in the family has a power of attorney. Their hands are tied. They are unable to make medical decisions. And furthermore, if there are multiple children each may have a different opinion.

Sibling Rivalry rears its ugly head and everybody wants to do something different. Chances are (hopefully) they are all wanting to help their parent. But they each have different beliefs and views on what is the best way. And so, the fight begins and the family unit is torn apart. Is this really what you want for your family?

And how are your bills going to get paid while you are recouping?

Hopefully, if you have fallen, you still have your cognitive abilities. An Elder law attorney can come to see you in the hospital and help get your documents in order. But wouldn’t it be less stressful to do that before there is a problem?


2. A Stroke or Other Serious Health Situation that Leaves You Mentally Incapacitated

Now we have a more serious situation. You have not planned for this. Yet here it is.  Hopefully you have at least named someone as your POA (Power of Attorney) and hopefully, you have other documents in place to ensure that your medical needs and decisions are respected.

Have you discussed your finances with your POA? Do they know how much you have available?  Often families come in because they do not know what to do. A stroke that left dad incapacitated means he now needs long-term care.

And Medicare Does Not Pay for That

Families are shocked to discover that Medicare does not pay for a home care worker to stay with dad during the day while his daughter is at work. You may be able to get a few hours a week from Home Healthcare for a limited time. But they will not cook, clean, run errands or play chess with Dad. Nor will it pay for an Assisted living facility or nursing home. These costs will have to come out of pocket.

And if there is not any money or not enough money you may have to apply for Medicaid. But planning this ahead of your actual need is necessary. Applying for Medicaid is a process. And having a plan in place is important.

“I was ashamed that I had not saved enough money for retirement. So, I hid that fact from my children. I was hoping that I would just die in my sleep one day and we would not have to deal with any of this” ~ Sharon, a stroke survivor

3. The Long Slow Slide into Dementia

It is common to want to believe this is not happening. To yourself or to someone you love. But the signs are there. Subtle in the beginning but nevertheless there. Pretending that this is not or will not happen is not a strategy that works for anyone.

“Dad was having a good time traveling across the country with his race car. I was proud of him. He was 78 and still so active and seemed to really be enjoying life. But looking back there were signs. It was uncomfortable. And I did not want to believe there could be a problem. I wanted his life and my life to continue on this happy course. And then our little Utopia came crashing down around us. Dad showed up at my house a few days before hurricane Harvey hit Houston. It would flood our home and we would not return for a year. Dad’s car had obviously been wrecked. He could give me no logical explanation about what happened. Though I was concerned I had other worries to deal with now as Harvey invaded our home. And then Dad disappeared.” ~ Claire, Daughter and Harvey Survivor

Claire’s father was eventually found. He had gone home. To the home, he had shared with his now ex-wife and Claire’s mom. They had been divorced for over 25 years. She still lived there and let him in. She could tell something was wrong.

As an only daughter, Claire had POA but the money she thought Dad had had all been spent or possibly given away.  People with beginning dementia are especially vulnerable to con artists and crooks.

What’s Your Plan?

Having a plan and strategy in place can help families avoid having to make important decisions during stressful times. Take a few hours to attend a workshop. Learn about what you need to have in place. Have the money conversation with your family. This way they will know what to do when tragedy strikes.





blended families

Blended Families- What You Need to Know


You are madly in love! You are sure the person you are marrying is also a really good Mom/Dad. And you imagine that everything will work wonderfully.

Hmmmmm….Really? No hiccups along the way?

Getting married when you are young and single without children can be an adjustment. You both came from different families. As such, there were beliefs you picked up along the way. You have different ways of doing things.

Getting Married with Children

blended family

Approximately 65% of new marriages include children of past marriages.

Let’s face it, getting married with children brings the whole adjustment experience up a notch. Everyone has their own vision of what life should look like in the new family. And the truth is you may not all be on the same page. Here are a few situations you should consider.

Sibling Rivalry

All families experience sibling rivalry. But blended families experience it at a different level. The fighting may be more intense. After all, they didn’t ask to be a part of this new family. Chances are your child may long for “how things used to be.” Additionally, children who haven’t had to “share’ their parent in a long time may have trouble letting go.

How to Handle the Situation

Communication is the key to a successful remarriage and a blended family. Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page about sibling rivalry. If one of you thinks the other’s child is causing the rift, nothing will work. If you are having trouble with this seek counseling.

Consequences and rewards need to be the same for all the children, no matter how it “used to work” before you two got married. The rules have to be the same for everyone and you and your partner need to be on the same page.

Turf Wars

Children of blended families often have trouble with one another’s turf. If the children from one family move into the home with children who are already there expect some acting out. Ideally, if you can move into a new home it may make the transition smoother. But this may not be possible. In that case, try the following tips.

If there are not enough bedrooms, make the den or an office space into a bedroom.

Sharing Bedrooms

blended families- bedrooms

Children who must share bedrooms need to have an active voice in how it is decorated. Spending a few extra dollars on new paint and décor can help soften the blow of sharing a space for your child.

Consider hiring an organizer to work with the family to clean out closets, drawers and family spaces that will be shared. This will be an outsider who can help the children develop a good plan to use their space.

Keep each family member’s allotted space as equal as possible. This is so important!

Legal Disputes and Issues

When families separate there may be legal issues that arise. During a divorce, one partner may get the house but when a new partner enters the picture, legal agreements may need to be changed. There may also be financial strains from ongoing legal issues related to the divorce.

Communicating before you get married. Put all of your cards on the table. Make sure you enter a marriage with your eyes wide open. Understand all of the legal and financial challenges you may encounter.

It is Important to Plan

Wills, trusts and other documents need to be updated. This is so important. Often people do not even think about the fact their new family could be left in the cold. Your ex-spouse could end up with money you wanted your new spouse to have. And you want to make sure all of the children in the family get equal treatment and shares.

The Hilbun Law Firm can help you make sure everything is in place.