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Steps To Take When Becoming A Caregiver – Part 4

by Christine Steinmetz, J.D., Hotline Attorney

This post is the fourth in our series on caregivers. In our previous post, we discussed the Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, Power of Attorney for Health Care, and the Representative Payee designation forms that can assist a caregiver with his/her duties. In this post, we will discuss the Living Trust, which can also assist a caregiver with handling a person’s assets. We will also discuss the new legislation that was passed this year to aid caregivers.

Many people have heard of a Living Trust but do not truly understand what a Living Trust is. A Living Trust is a document set up by a person, or creator, during his/her lifetime. Most Living Trusts are revocable, meaning it allows the creator to either revoke or amend the trust during his/her lifetime. A trust is a very useful tool when it comes to handling trust assets. A trust cannot only provide for your assets after your death, but can also provide for your assets during your incapacity. A trust document can have provisions regarding the incapacity of the creator and allow the successor trustee to handle trust funds while the creator is incapacitated. Therefore, if the creator of a trust names his/her caregiver as the successor Trustee, then the caregiver would be able to handle the assets held in the trust during the creator’s incapacity. Due to the complexity of Living Trusts, we recommend that you have an attorney who is familiar with estate planning draft the document for you.

In July 2016, the Michigan legislature passed Public Act 85 which is called the Designated Caregiver Act. This new legislation allows caregivers to be informed of a patient’s status and the resources available to a patient when he/she is discharged from a hospital. The act requires hospitals to allow each patient to designate a lay person caregiver before the patient is discharged from the hospital or transferred to another facility. The act does not require a patient to choose a designated caregiver, but gives the patient an opportunity to appoint someone. Once a designated caregiver is chosen, the hospital adds the caregiver’s information to the patient’s records. The hospital then consults with the designated caregiver to prepare for the patient’s after-care assistance needs and issues a discharge plan. Under the act, the hospital is to provide training and instructions to the extent possible, as well as the status of the patient’s medical care, to the designated caregiver. The act gives caregivers the ability to have access to resources after the patient returns home. Under the act, the patient can change his/her designated caregiver at any time. Since more than 2 million people are caregivers and most are not trained, this act gives some guidance and assistance to caregivers once the patient is released from the hospital.

As our society ages, the need for caregivers will continue to grow. It is often friends and family that take on the role as caregiver. Since there is often no training for lay caregivers, we will need more legislation to assist and guide caregivers with his/her new responsibilities.

In our next post on caregivers, we will discuss what a caregiver can do if the person being cared for becomes incapacitated and didn’t have the necessary documents in place. After reading this, I hope you realize the important role a caregiver plays in the life of the person they are caring for. If you are a caregiver or have questions regarding caregivers, please contact the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors at 800.347.5297 and our hotline attorneys will be happy to answer your questions.

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