FACTORING LONG-TERM CARE INTO YOUR ESTATE PLAN PAYS OFF

By Cory Howes

For most people, thinking about estate planning means focusing on what will happen to their money after they pass away. But this framework misses one pretty significant consideration: the need to plan for long-term care.

The last thing any of us want to contend with when a health issue arises later in life is having to throw together a hasty estate planning solution in the face of mounting medical costs. Your best defense is careful planning with the help of a trusted expert.

Why it’s so important to plan for long-term care

While less than 20 percent of current U.S. residents will need to reside under long-term care for a period of over three years, that estimated number sharply increases when factoring in nursing home stays of a shorter duration — which will still have a substantial impact on your estate.

Whether the care you need takes place in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or with an in-home provider, the costs can mount with alarming speed. For example, national average rates for assisted living hover around $3,500 per month. As those costs add up, you could see your assets dwindle much sooner than you’d hoped. Luckily, estate planning attorneys can help in a number of ways.

What to go over with your estate attorney

If long-term care isn’t factored into your estate plan, you are probably not looking at a truly realistic and accurate representation of your assets. Talk to your estate planning attorney about the following factors in order to get on the right track:

Set reasonable expectations for long-term care

It’s impossible to know what life will bring, but we can certainly make educated guesses. For example, are there any major diseases that run in your family? There is a chance you will have the good fortune of staying healthy well into your golden years, but estate planning is an aspect of your financial life in which it’s helpful to protect yourself against worst-case scenarios.

In the estimated likelihood that you will require such care, at what age could you reasonably predict you’ll need it? Do you have any current health conditions to take into account? Exploring these possibilities may not be the most enjoyable exercise, but it’s far better than facing the reality of long-term care with no plans in place.

Consider a long-term care insurance policy

As Medicare or standard health insurance may not cover your costs, a long-term care insurance policy is one way to protect yourself against draining your financial assets. Ask for resources for finding an affordable premium that isn’t likely to increase prohibitively over time. Begin this process as soon as possible, as your premium will be lower the younger you are when you apply.

Another potential oversight is assuming your long-term care will be covered by Medicaid. Discuss it as an option to determine your qualifications and get authoritative insights about the specificities of your unique financial situation in terms of Medicaid benefits.

Get smart about healthcare documents

In order to best prepare your loved ones for complex medical decisions, review your advance directives—carefully thought-out instructions to guide them in certain health situations. There are numerous ways to protect assets from being “spent down” on long term medical care, but timing is essential. It is even possible to implement certain strategies when you need to begin receiving care, but certain provisions must be included in your healthcare documents for someone to utilize these strategies on your behalf if you have already become incapacitated.

It’s also important to ensure someone you trust to access to and can utilize your financial resources for your benefit in the event of unforeseen medical circumstances. One common mistake is tying up assets in investments that you can’t liquidate in a timely fashion, perhaps when you need them most. For example, money locked into annuities can result in a fee for early withdrawal. Working with a team of that includes an estate planning attorney, financial advisor, and insurance professional can provide you and your family with the best overall solution.

Take the time now to talk to an estate planning attorney about the best ways to maintain financial security in tandem with the demands of long-term care. Even if you don’t end up needing long-term care in your lifetime, you can enjoy the peace of mind knowing you’ll be covered.

The process of completing a long-term care plan may sound daunting, but we help clients consider these issues on a regular basis. We’re here to help you with a streamlined experience that results in your needs met for the future, both in death and in adverse health situations. Please contact me to start or review your plan today.