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Posted November 9, 2009

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Finances: Organizing Pay for Caregiving

Q. My mother-in-law lives with us after suffering a stroke. She is not paralyzed, for which we are thankful, but her speech and thought process were affected by it. Sometimes comprehension and understanding are very hard for her.

My question is this: Mom doesn't pay us to live with us or care for her, but she would like to work out something with us. But she would like to do it in agreement with my husband's siblings, as well. Is there a form for something like that? I don't know if it has to be a legal document or if it is something we can just write down, like "I agree to do ____." Also how do you figure an amount hat is right for something like that?

I enjoy reading your "Caregiver's News," and it covers some good and helpful topics. Thank you. If you don't have an answer, can you tell me where I can get an answer?

Judy V.

A. There are ways that agreements along these lines can be worked out. They are handled best in consultation with a lawyer. Every person's circumstances are unique, and they do not necessarily fit well within the confines of a standard form. The major issues are likely to arise when your mother dies. That is when family misunderstandings can develop over what was intended.

What should be done also depends very much on your mother's financial circumstances. If there is a house or other considerable assets, some "Medicaid planning" should be done to assure that assets will be protected if the parent must later enter a nursing home.

If your mother's assets are relatively modest, it may be appropriate to do nothing more than have her pay something that would be considered compensation for the extra expense of having her in your home.

This answer is provided by Howard F. Angione, an attorney in Queens, New York, whose practice is devoted to the needs of the elderly and those who care for them. Mr. Angione was the principal editor of Elder Law and Guardianship in New York, a practice guide for attorneys, and of the 5th Edition of Harris Trusts and Estates, a three-volume work for attorneys on probate in New York State. He also is a member of the executive committee of the Elder Law Section of the New York State Bar Association and serves as editor-in-chief of the bar association's magazine Journal.

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