Estate planning for a family member with mental health issues can be challenging. It can be hard to figure out what this person is able to handle on their own and what they may need assistance with, especially as this may change either gradually or quickly with time.
In many cases, this family member is someone who has been getting by on their own or with some help from a parent or sibling. However, if that parent or sibling passes away, more distant family members may sense that this person needs assistance but be uncertain of what to do. These family members may feel that they don’t have any legal obligation to do anything, or they may let the fear of doing the wrong thing keep them from doing anything at all.
People may also not understand their family member’s mental illness itself, especially if the person has not received a diagnosis. It is common for people to exhibit signs of mental illness but not be diagnosed or receive treatment, and family members are often left guessing about the diagnosis and how they can help.
Here are a few ways you can provide support if you have a family member who is struggling with mental health issues:
- Offer a “lifeline.” Instead of assuming that someone else is helping this person, and instead of guessing what help they need, ask them what help they need and if they have someone you could call to help them. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and should be able to receive the help they need when they need it. If they don’t have anyone that you can call, consider reaching out to another family member, the local mental health department, or council on aging, if appropriate.
- Get the legal documents in order. If your family member has capacity and has someone identified to assist them, a lawyer can draft the necessary documents to give the named person legal authority to make financial and/or health care decisions for your family member if and when that may become needed. This usually includes a durable power of attorney, health care proxy, and HIPAA waiver.
Next week’s post will continue with 3 more ways to help a family member with mental health challenges when it comes to estate planning.
For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.