Ben Neiburger is a trust and estate attorney with a practice, Generation Law, in Elmhurst, Illinois. Though Neiburger started out as a corporate attorney working on tax and financial issues with large corporations, he wanted to do good work as well as be a good person as a lawyer. He found that helping families in need of an elder law attorney was far more satisfying than corporate work. In 2003, Neiburger started Generation Law which now has 5 attorneys and 5 support staff. Neiburger is also the author of a book, “Brighter Skies”, a compact volume that distills 10 concepts helpful to families taking care of an elderly family member.
“Brighter Skies” covers a number of topics that are vital to those caring for a family member. One topic covered is caretaker stress. Caretakers must first take care of themselves before being able to adequately take care of a loved one. Taking care of yourself as the caretaker also ensures that you make better decisions. One way to do that is to assemble a team to help care for a family member. The team usually includes a doctor, a social worker, an accountant or financial planner, lawyer and necessary caregivers. Caretaking is a very difficult job that cannot be easily undertaken alone.
The attorney of the team is responsible for preparing the necessary documents so that the care taker can step into the shoes of their loved one and make decisions for them when are no longer able to do so. These documents are called powers of attorney. There is a power of attorney for healthcare which covers medical decision making and there is a power of attorney which covers financial matters. These documents help ensure that the caretaker carries out the wishes of their loved one while they are still living.
Other legal documents an attorney can prepare are the will and a trust. These instruments manage and disperse property after a person’s death. Property can be categorized into 3 areas; beneficiary-designated, automatic and probate. A will controls the affairs of the loved one solely after death while a trust is effective both before and after death. A trust can help a family avoid the probate process but a will (pour-over will) is still necessary even if a trust is prepared. If there is no will or trust, the decedent’s property will still be managed and dispersed but it may not be according to the decedent’ wishes but through a probate judge and by the probate laws of the state of Illinois.
Taking on the task of caretaker for a loved one is a difficult and multi-faceted job. Having a team in place can ease the burden of that task and also ensure that the wishes of your loved one are honored and that the caretaker is in a position to make the best decisions for them.