Paul and Norma Butler

My mother Norma Arnold-Butler is the inspiration for my career in elder law and estate planning.  Besides being an independent career woman that I could look up to, she is the most caring person I’ve ever known.  Norma was always the one to visit you when you were not able to make it to church.  She made a point of being there for anyone she knew who might need a meal or just a friend to talk to.  She practiced real estate in the Phoenix area for over 30 years and retired at age 71.  Just two years later she received the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Over the past ten years, I have attained a doctorate degree and built my law practice; all while caring for my mother. She passed in 2016 listening to her favorite music and telling me she had to go to a dance. After the life she lived, I know there was a big party waiting for her in heaven!

I dedicate my blog not to my mother, but to my step-father, Paul Roland Butler.  He had the foresight to plan well for my mother’s needs in retirement. My parents found a good estate planning attorney, discussed their wishes, and told their children about their plans.  My mother had security and was able to remain in her own home with her dog and 24/7 care for 4 & 1/2 years and then moved to assisted living where she lived with her dog Roxie for another 3 & 1/2 years.   All of this was possible because they planned well.

All too often, I see adult children come into the Conservatorship clinic where I volunteer each week asking what they can do to manage their mom or dad’s finances and/or make health care decisions on their behalf. The typical scenario is that the parent lives alone and they are now showing signs of incapacity, such as Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia and there is a crisis, either medical, financial or both.  The first questions are always, did they execute a power of attorney for healthcare or finances? Do they have a trust?

If you become incapacitated without a proper plan in place, your loved ones could be forced to ask the court for permission to make decisions for you. Where finances are involved, a court will require a bond to insure against a loss to the estate. The bonding company will require that you hire an attorney to insure against mistakes. Between the court fees, bond, court-appointed counsel, and attorney fees, you could be looking at $15,000 in costs–all because a plan was not in place.

The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” holds true. If you plan well and keep your estate plan up-to-date by checking in with your attorney when certain life changes occur, you won’t end up at the mercy of an overworked court system and charge by the hour attorneys fees.

I will share with you my experiences of caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s Disease and finding resources for my clients as well.

If you haven’t set your estate plan to paper yet, meet with a good estate planning attorney very soon.  It’s time to make sure you protect what is important to you and set your intentions for how you want the future to play out should you become incapacitated.  Life is short, plan well.

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