Are you planning your retirement? What an exciting way to start the New Year! You are starting the next phase of your life and can now look forward to going on long vacations and not having to get up early to avoid the morning traffic rush. While we’re not trying to take away from that excitement, retirement planning comes with a lot of important decisions to be made. For one, have you included long-term care planning in your retirement discussions? There comes a period in everyone’s life, whether due to age or illness, when we cannot care for ourselves. Now is the time to meet with a long-term care planning attorney and be clear about your wishes when you’re coherent, not later when you need someone to make decisions on your behalf.
A Direct Overview to Long-Term Care Planning
Illness could arise suddenly due to a heart attack or a worsening health condition. Or we become frail with age and unable to care for ourselves like we once used to. These events might require long-term care services designed to meet your health or personal care needs. The best time for long-term care planning is now, while you are planning your retirement and still able to make crucial decisions.
Long-term care planning allows you and your loved ones to learn about available services and their costs, whether it’s in-home care or care that’s provided at an assisted living facility. You also have the opportunity to draw up estate planning documents such as a “living will” and a signed power of attorney that clearly state your preferences and how they should be carried out.
The Crucial Role of Attorneys in Long-Term Care Planning
Why should you see a lawyer to discuss and document your long-term care planning preferences? People think you only need an attorney for wills. Lawyers also ensure the legality of documents included in your estate plan that dictate who makes personal decisions on your behalf while you are still living. These documents include:
- Advanced Healthcare Directive (AHCD). It is also called a “Living Will” or Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPA). It states your healthcare preferences and indicates who will make medical care decisions on your behalf.
- Durable Power of Attorney. A variation of a Financial Power of Attorney, this document stays in effect if you become incapacitated and cannot manage your financial matters. The nominated person’s responsibilities include making financial decisions that coincide with the medical preferences you outlined in your AHCD.
- Medicaid Asset Trust. Medicare, which is the primary health insurance for seniors, does not cover long term care. An effective plan to accelerate your eligibility for Medicaid, which does provide long-term benefits, is to transfer assets to your children through a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust. It is essential, however, to plan ahead since Medicaid has a five year lookback period that bars asset transfers through a trust or otherwise within five years of applying for Medicaid. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to provide you with an effective plan to cover your future long term care needs through the creation of a Trust.
Building a Secure Future: Integrating Long-Term Care into Estate Planning
Integrating your long-term care into estate planning is vital to building a secure future. Some people wonder what is estate planning exactly and why is having a will not enough? A will is only one part of the estate planning process, and becomes relevant after you pass away. An estate plan, however, is a comprehensive set of documents, including an AHCD and Durable Power of Attorney, effective while you are alive and after you pass. This plan can also be revisited and updated as your needs change over time. Remember, long-term care is costly, so it’s important to take this time to establish your eligibility for Medicaid or Veterans assistance benefits with your estate planning lawyer too.