Life Care Planning
Life Care Planning is an innovative concept in the estate planning field that is emerging because people are living a lot longer these days and Estate Planning attorneys realize that estate planning isn’t just about death. There is a lot that can be done within the law to make the last decades of life easier, less stressful and to ensure that individuals and couples can afford to live out the remainder of their days.
Life Care Planning helps you (or your loved one) get the best possible care during your last decade of life while also helping to find the best ways to pay for care. Good planning also takes into consideration what might lie ahead in the coming months or years.
So, where are you on the planning continuum?
6 Stages of Life Planning
Stage #1: Healthy and more than 5 years left before care will be needed. You are still living at home, driving, traveling, handling finances, volunteering, maybe even still working part-time. Hopefully, you still have 10-15 years until care is needed.
Actions: Update your estate plan (and consider keeping it up to date with a maintenance plan). Review asset titling and beneficiary designations. Consider a “nest egg trust” for future asset protection. Also, consider creating a revocable living trust.
Stage #2: Not as young as I used to be. You may need care or assistance within the next 5 years. You continue to drive, shop and pay the bills, but you’re starting to lean on the family more for help or decisions. You may have more health issues requiring some time spent in the hospital.
Actions: Update your estate plan, including your will and powers of attorney. Consider a “nest egg trust” for future asset protection. Be aware that care needs might come faster than expected. Talk to your estate planning attorney about your legal and financial options.
Stage #3: Needing more and more help with daily tasks. Your memory is not what it used to be. You notice increased reliance on the family, or you may already be at an independent living facility in your own apartment with meals provided. Maybe you no longer drive, or drive only for daytime short trips.
Actions: Plan now for more extensive care needs. You may be able to qualify for Veterans benefits now (even in-home care) or if not now, soon. It’s vitally important at this point to plan ahead for possible Medicaid benefits later.
Stage #4: Declining, but still at home. You need substantial assistance at home and no longer drive. You need daily assistance that may include dressing, getting up, eating, using the bathroom and bathing. You might need help during the day or maybe 24 hours a day, leaning on the family for most legal and financial decisions.
Actions: Make sure your finances are managed well, your bills are paid on time, and that you won’t be subject to financial elder abuse or scams. You may qualify for Veterans benefits with proper planning. It’s time to talk about Medicaid benefits later.
Stage #5: Declining and in assisted living. Your loved one has become too much for the family to take care of and is beyond the help available at home. They may be in and out of the hospital. The family hopes assisted living will work long term, but there may be concerns about quickly declining health that will require an even higher level of care sooner than expected.
Actions: Review Medicaid and Veterans benefit options immediately. Determine if there will be enough income to cover monthly expenses and how long the assets will last.
Stage #6: In crisis, either in the hospital or nursing home. Your loved one is now in the hospital, rehab or a nursing home and you expect that they will not be able to return home. They need skilled nursing care now.
Actions: Do immediate planning to help maximize Veterans or Medicaid benefits while protecting assets. It is rarely “too late” to do anything, despite what nursing home staff or your friends may have told you.
If you, or a loved one, are in Stages 3-6, call and schedule an appointment with us right away. We’ll be happy to talk with you about your current situation and recommend the best next steps for your loved one.
Your last decade(s) of life don’t have to be filled with the stress and worry about how you are going to be cared for and how your care is going to be paid. We can help guide you and your family through the intricacies of the law to design the right plan for you, no matter your stage of life!