7 Questions to Ask Before the Age of 70

People are living longer than ever these days, and while that is a good thing, it definitely presents challenges. Regardless of you or your loved one’s stage in life, good planning requires that you ask good questions. And asking good questions can sometimes be uncomfortable, unpleasant or overwhelming. We have come up with 7 questions that need to be asked by the time someone turns 70. If you address these 7 things, it will make aging easier on you and your family.

A little discomfort now can make ALL the difference later. One of the keys to this exercise is not taking an emotional approach. We naturally think of ourselves as 15 years younger than we really are. That means when we turn 70, we actually still feel like we’re 55! That’s a big difference. One way to combat this is to look at the cold, hard facts about aging:

  • People reaching the age of 65 will live, on average, 19.2 more years. That’s 84, if you don’t want to do the math.
  • 36% of people aged 65+ reported some sort of disability in 2012. (That’s 1 out of every 3 people.) Limitations in daily living activities because of chronic conditions will only increase with age.
  • Statistics vary, but it is generally thought that 70-80% of people who reach 65 will need some sort of care during the rest of their life!
  • 1 in 3 older women are widows. And according to the Wall Street Journal, 86% of widows live in poverty. Almost half of women 75+ live alone.
  • And according to David Laibson, who specializes in behavioral finance at Harvard University, about half the 80-year-old population is not in a position to make important financial decisions due to rates of dementia and other kinds of cognitive impairment. This means it’s important to make these decisions sooner rather than later.

So, what are the questions we want you to think about and ask yourself?

  1. Who’s in charge here? Every plan for aging needs a good helper. (Think Power of Attorney, executor or trustee.)
  2. Do you have the correct powers in place? If you have a Power of Attorney, does it have the correct provisions to allow the most flexible planning options as you age?
  3. Is your estate plan up to date? Lives constantly change, which means your estate plan needs to be tweaked to match the circumstances.
  4. What care will be needed… and when? This is a great question, without a concrete answer, but it’s important to be realistic and anticipate the possibilities.
  5. Have you explored ALL the asset protection options? Even before care is needed, there are some important steps that can be taken to help pay for care when it is eventually needed.
  6. Are you maximizing available benefits now? If care is needed now, are you sure that you are accessing all available help, like VA and Medicaid?
  7. The best way to answer Question #6 is by answering Question #7: Have you gotten the advice of an experienced elder law attorney? Experienced elder law attorneys deal with these issues everyday, which means they are always up on the latest laws, benefits and local care options.

One final encouragement from Dave on this topic, “It is far easier to have a plan pre-70 and tweak it here and there as the situation changes, rather than having to make all the big decisions during a crisis or once decision-making impairment has begun.” Addressing all 7 of these questions is something that all of our plans do. If answering these questions feels overwhelming, don’t stress! We guide our clients through the decision-making process everyday. And when the time comes to start implementing the plan, we work as a support for your family, making sure that things go as smoothly as possible. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 if you have questions, or check out one of our upcoming workshops.

Important Advice on Choosing a Healthcare POA

Every estate plan needs a good helper(s). Choosing helpers can be really tough. These people will be responsible for making decisions when you can’t make them for yourself. A power of attorney for healthcare will allow someone to help you make a variety of decisions related to medical issues like treatments, surgeries, end of life decisions, living arrangements, and how to get the best care as you age.

Here are 9 key issues to consider when thinking about who you might choose for your healthcare power of attorney:

 

  1. How old should the person be?

    A power of attorney must be at least 18 years old because minor children are not legally allowed in this role. If you are considering younger adult children or family members, maybe in their 20s, it will depend on that person and their maturity level. Are they old enough or mature enough to handle these tough, and oftentimes weighty, decisions?

  2. Do you have ongoing health issues that family members are aware of?

    If a child has helped you face a chronic health issues for years, they may have a better understanding of the decisions you might face, and a better understanding of the decisions you would make for yourself.

  3. Who goes with you to the doctor?

    The person who most often attends doctor appointments, or takes you to appointments right now, might be a good choice for your healthcare power of attorney.

  4. Do you live near your children or other potential powers of attorney?

    If they live far away, that may make it more difficult for them to make informed and timely decisions on your behalf.

  5. If you are considering your spouse, is he or she facing any of their own health issues or memory issues?

    If so, will they be equipped to focus and be capable of clear thinking when faced with an important decision?

  6. What type of person will make the best medical decisions?

    Do you want someone who is compassionate? Most of us do, but what other traits might be important? Sometimes compassion is not enough. If a person tends to become emotional and overwhelmed in stressful situations, will they be able to make tough decisions in a timely fashion when needed? Sometimes a delayed decision or a lack of a decision can result in a situation you would have wanted to avoid — such as your life being prolonged artificially.

  7. Is the person able to be a peacemaker and consider other’s feelings and concerns in making the decision?

    Whether you choose your spouse, your child or another person as the healthcare POA, others can be included in the decision-making process. If your power of attorney is caring and works well with others, then they are more likely to value the input of others.

  8. Will your healthcare agent be able to do what they think is right, even if others strongly disagree?

    For instance, if your spouse knows exactly what you want done, will they be able to follow through even if your kids disagree? A person who is easily influenced by others may not be the best option as power of attorney.

  9. Can they be a good advocate for you?

    Good medical care often requires the patient or the power of attorney to ask good questions. It’s also helpful for your helper to be proactive in seeking out the proper treatment or course of action. Someone who passively says, “OK” to everything the doctor says may not be what you need.

We help families choose good helpers everyday. This is a difficult decision and one of the most important you’ll ever make. You don’t have to do it alone. We can help guide you through the process of deciding who is best.

While you’ll only do this once in your lifetime (or maybe twice), we’ve helped hundreds of families through this process since our firm started in 2008. We’ve seen A LOT over the years and gained wisdom from the families we’ve helped. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 if you would like guidance in choosing good helpers for your plan. We’re always happy to help!

Would You Know How to Stop Elder Abuse?

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was observed recently, and we shared some helpful information in our email newsletter. (Sign up for our educational newsletter here.) Elder abuse is a complex issue that can encompass physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It’s estimated that 5 million older Americans are victims every year. And while that is far too many, it is estimated that for every 1 case of reported abuse, there are 23 more out there that go unreported!

The focus of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this year was financial exploitation, which can take many forms. In developed countries like ours, abuse often involves theft, forgery, misuse of property and power of attorney, as well as denying access to funds.

Sadly, we see these things here in the office far too often. That’s why a few years ago we created a series on elder fraud. In this three part series, we explore common scams to watch out for, PLUS seven questions that can stop elder fraud in its tracks. Click on the links below to learn more so you can protect yourself or your loved ones:

It will take a community of loved ones, neighbors, professional advisors, case workers, etc. to continue to fight this shameful trend of taking advantage of seniors. Speaking up and educating people are important steps in the battle.

How Innovative Legal Help Saved the Relationship of Two Sisters

This is the real life story of two sisters, an annuity, nursing home costs, and why Medicaid Planning matters.

Mom did not have a lot, but she owned her home, had a steady retirement income, and had purchased two annuities. Each in the amount of $50,000.

Each daughter was named the beneficiary of “their” annuity and would, therefore, receive the $50,000 from the annuity when Mom passed away.

The older daughter fell on hard times and asked her mother if she could cash-in the $50,000 annuity. Mom agreed and the older daughter received her $50,000 “inheritance.”

The younger daughter, not needing her money, left her annuity in place as Mom had originally intended.

Unfortunately, several years later, Mom had a stroke and had to enter a nursing home. She privately paid for the nursing home costs until nothing was left but the home and the younger daughter’s $50,000 annuity.

But the annuity wasn’t truly the daughter’s. Mom was listed as the owner because she was still alive and would, therefore, have to spend the younger daughter’s inheritance before she could apply for Medicaid.

Of course this was very upsetting to the younger daughter. She was the one who hadn’t requested her money early. She was the one following Mom’s original plan for the money to pass upon her death. And yet, she was the one “being punished” financially by her Mom’s stay in the nursing home.

A Resolution

One of our attorneys sat down with the sisters for several hours listening to their story and devising a plan. In the end, we were able to develop a strategy that would allow an immediate transfer of the house to the daughter (thereby equalizing the daughters’ inheritances) while qualifying Mom for Medicaid several months later.

The mother continued to get the care she needed as she aged, and the daughters got a resolution to a very sticky situation. It was a very satisfying experience for our attorney and the two sisters!

We work with families everyday to find solutions to the challenges of estate planning — complicated family circumstances, business and farm succession planning, paying for a nursing home. It is our greatest pleasure when we can help families figure out legal solutions for complicated problems.

What Should You Do Next?

If you want to learn more about planning for exorbitant nursing home costs, check out the following resources:

  1. Download a copy of our Medicaid FAQ (that ran in a local publication) to learn more about paying for nursing care, qualifying for Medicaid, etc.
  2. Sign up for our Medicaid Planning e-course. This series of emails will teach you the basics about planning for Medicaid and applying for the benefit, plus provide you tangible steps to get started.
  3. Attend a free workshop to learn more about effective planning. At our workshop, How to Protect Your House and Life Savings from the Nursing Home, you’ll learn the five ways to pay for care, how benefits like Medicaid or VA can help get the care you or your loved ones needs, and the three keys to creating a “Good Care Roadmap” to protect your family and life savings. Check for upcoming dates here.
  4. If you need help right away, just give us a call at 217-726-9200. We understand that many cases like these are urgent. Our Benefits Coordinator, Melissa Coulter, will be more than happy to discuss your situation and what immediate actions should be taken.

(Video) When is the best time to contact an attorney about long-term care?

If you already know what an elder law attorney does, then you may be wondering when it’s best to contact them for help.

Anytime there is a transition period or crisis situation, your lawyer can help lay the groundwork for care and help get more benefits to pay for that care. Having a lawyer can help you understand your options if your loved one must move from their home or needs more care in an assisted living or nursing home facility.

Examples of transition times when an elder law attorney can help:

  • If you or your loved one are in the hospital or a rehab facility and may be unable to return home.
  • If you or your loved one are in an assisted living facility but are needing a higher level of care, possibly a skilled nursing facility.
  • If your loved one is unable to stay at home without additional help from family or caregivers to help with Activities of Daily Living.

Learn more in this video from Attorney David Edwards:

If you or a loved one is experiencing a transition where paying for care is a challenge and concern, we urge you to call us at 217-726-9200 and speak with our Benefits Coordinator, Melissa Coulter. She loves helping families find solutions for this very stressful time of life. If you want to learn more about planning for nursing home costs, feel free to attend an upcoming workshop, How to Protect Your House and Life Savings from the Nursing Home.

give your house to your kids

(Video) Beware of What Happens When You Give Your House to Your Kids

When faced with the shocking costs of long-term care or a nursing home, many people have to scramble to figure out a way to pay the enormous fees. Realistically, the $6000+ a month it costs for a nursing home in Central Illinois is a big financial burden for most people. Many are left with Medicaid as the only possible way to get the care they need as they age. In fact, it is estimated that 70% of nursing home residents rely on Medicaid to pay their nursing home bill.

Without planning, the most common way to qualify for Medicaid is to “spend down” most of your assets.

So, in order to try and protect assets (like the family home), some people consider transferring their house or other assets to their kids. This can work for Medicaid, if done at least 5 years ahead of when care is needed, but there are risks involved.

The unintended consequences from this approach can create big problems. Learn more about the risks by downloading our guide, “12 Reasons Not to Give Your Property or Your Money to Your Kids Right Now,” or watch the following video where Attorney David Edwards explains a little more about the risks involved in giving money or property away to your children.

What You Need to Know About Nursing Care and Aging

So, what do nursing homes have to do with estate planning? When most people think about estate planning, they almost exclusively think of a Last Will & Testament, but a Will only works AFTER you pass away. A Will sets out what will happen, who’s in charge, and where your assets will go AFTER your death. Around the office, we refer to this as “death planning” because the plan you make goes into effect after you’re gone.

Because people are living longer, a new aspect of estate planning has emerged over the last decade. And this new type of planning is just as important as the traditional “death planning.” We call this form of planning, “Life Care Planning,”because it addresses the type of care you may need toward the end of your life.

It is difficult to face, but statistics tell us that 70% of people who reach the age of 70 will need some sort of long-term care (like a nursing home). The need for long-term care happens because of stroke, dementia or any number of health problems. When serious health issues crop up, you and your family will come face to face with the following questions:

  • How do we pay for good care?
  • How do we keep peace in the family during this extremely stressful time?
  • How do we protect our loved one’s life savings if the average cost of a nursing home in Central Illinois is $75,000/year?
  • How can we take maximum advantage of the help available to pay for good care?

The Basics of Needing Assistance as You Age

When it comes to needing assistance as you age, there are basically three choices:

  1. Stay at home with help. Many prefer to stay in their own home and hire someone to help with light housekeeping, meal preparation, bathing assistance or the activities of daily living (ADLs). However, in-home medical help can quickly become too expensive for most families.
  2. Move to an assisted living facility. At an assisted living facility, you have your own living space, meals provided in a common dining area, and social activities. In addition, they can help with care needs such as bathing and medication. In order to be in assisted living, one generally needs to be mobile (able to get to the dining room, get in and out of bed, etc.).
  3. Enter nursing home care. Most of us would like to avoid this option, but it is often a reality as medical complications from aging begin to stack up. In addition to meals and social activities, nursing homes provide around-the-clock-care, administer medications, offer rehabilitation (in the form of Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy), etc.

Every month we offer a workshop on this very topic. At this 1.5 hour workshop titled, How to Protect Your House and Life Savings from the Nursing Home, you’ll learn about protecting your life savings while still having options for care as you age. You’ll discover the 5 ways to pay for nursing or in-home care, plus how VA or Medicaid benefits can help get you the care you need. We’ll also talk about how a “Good Care Roadmap” can guide you through this stressful time of life. Check on upcoming dates for this free workshop.

why you need long-term care planning

Why You Need Long-term Care Planning

Finding good care as you age has always been stressful. And thanks to the rising costs of long-term care in the U.S., the last decade of life is now more stressful than ever. Long-term care planning (or Life Care Planning) can help make sure you get good care, help find ways to pay for the care and decrease stress so you can enjoy time with your loved ones.

Attorney David Edwards shares some of his thoughts on why you need long-term care planning.

If you or someone you know could benefit from long-term care planning, we encourage you to attend one of our upcoming workshops entitled, “How to Protect Your House and Life Savings from the Nursing Home.” See the upcoming dates here. At this 1.5 hour workshop you’ll learn more about the planning process and how to create a “Good Care Roadmap” to protect your family and life savings.

Veterans Aid & Attendance: A Little Known Way to Pay for Care as You Age

Many people are surprised to find out they qualify for aging Veterans’ benefits without having a service-related disability. The VA offers benefits that can be used by a Veteran or their surviving spouse to help with costs for in-home medical care, assisted living facilities and even nursing homes. Yet, these are one of the least known benefits for long-term care. According to the VA, 72% of those eligible don’t end up using these benefits they earned in service to their country.

What You Need to Know

In order to qualify, you (or your spouse) need to have served at least 90 days with 1 day of service occurring during these wartime periods:

  • WWII: December 7, 1941- December 31, 1946
  • Korea: June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955
  • Vietnam: August 5, 1964 (or Feburary 28, 1961 for those “in country”) – May 7, 1975
  • Gulf War: August 2, 1990 – date determined by Congress

VA Benefits FAQ

Do I need an attorney to apply for benefits? I was told I could apply on my own with the VA.

You do not have to have an attorney help you plan for VA benefits. However, many families try to apply on their own and then are denied or stuck in bureaucracy for up to 2 years. An elder law attorney accredited with the VA can help families plan ahead BEFORE applying so you can get the maximum benefits and get it as quickly as possible.

I was told that it is illegal for an attorney to charge for preparing a VA application. So, how can an attorney help? 

It is true that the application must be done free of charge. However, BEFORE you file the application, an experienced attorney can help make sure all your ducks are in a row so you will qualify for the maximum benefit. Planning before the application is the key to making sure everything works properly.

Do VA benefits cover in-home care benefits? 

This is one of the greatest things about VA benefits! It can help pay for in-home care–even care provided by a family member other than a spouse. Many people think they can’t afford it and are overjoyed to hear how they can qualify for help at home.

Don’t I have too many assets to qualify for aid and attendance benefits? 

There are asset limits, but also many planning options available. Through legal planning, such as a Veterans Asset Protection Trust, you can rearrange your finances in order to qualify.

What are the pitfalls of applying for VA benefits?

Sometimes people rearrange their finances to qualify for VA benefits, but later need more care and then need to apply for Medicaid benefits. An experienced elder law attorney can help think ahead to keep your plan flexible if you need more care later.

Isn’t it overwhelming to go through the application process?

It can be. Some families try it on their own and get denied. Others get caught in the endless bureaucracy. Other families intend to apply, but the process is so daunting that they never proceed, losing months or years of benefits. By working with an accredited VA and elder law attorney, you can plan ahead, make sure you get the benefits quickly, and avoid a lot of stress.

Applying for Veterans Benefits Can Be Complicated… We Can Help

When applying for VA benefits and paying for long-term care, there is a lot to consider. Experienced elder law attorneys work with families facing the challenges of aging everyday. They work to find solutions that will ease the strain and bring financial and emotional relief.

If you need to speak with someone right away about your current situation, feel free to call or email Edwards Group LLC. One of our Client Coordinators will be happy to help you by phone at 217-726-9200 or email at info@EdwardsGroupLLc.com.

Losing a Spouse Changes Everything: 5 Things to Think About

Suddenly, She Was Gone

Recently, I (David) was in the airport, waiting on a flight when a fellow passenger opened up and told me his story.

After being married for over 50 years, he had recently lost his wife. She was having a routine heart procedure and things went wrong. Suddenly, she was gone, totally unexpected.

He said it has really thrown him for a loop. Life is ALL different now. Even his schedule is hard. They always used to go out to eat every Friday night. He does it alone now that she’s gone. They always ran errands on Saturdays and relaxed on Sunday. He still finds himself keeping that same schedule, missing her as he goes along.

Even his relationship with his kids has changed. His wife had always been the more talkative one, and the kids tended to talk more with her. Now with Mom gone, they are all having to learn how to talk to each other more and differently.

“My kids don’t know what to do with me!” he said. One child had a house with a special space just for Mom to use after Dad died. NO ONE had thought about Mom dying first and what would happen if it did.

Planning Ahead

Losing a spouse is a big blow. One you never get over. It can feel overwhelming.

But good planning can ease some of the stress and give your family a road map to follow. It won’t help with the Friday night date nights, but it will bring you peace of mind and help the survivor who, all alone, is faced with important financial decisions.

Here are five things to think about with it comes to effective planning:

  1. If your spouse dies, will you live in the same place or move?
  2. Suppose you are caring for your spouse who is in poor health. What if you’re no longer around? Where will he get the care he needs?
  3. If you handle most of the financial matters, will your spouse be able to take that over, or will she need some help?
  4. Where will the survivor get wise advice? Who will be their sounding board? Do you have trusted relationships with your financial advisor and attorney?
  5. If your spouse dies, how will your income change? Will your pension or social security go down?

We have walked with many families who have planned ahead for their spouse, as well as spouses trying to deal with the current or unexpected loss of a loved one. We know how tough it is. By having a clear picture of the options and the right questions to ask, your plan can protect the surviving spouse and ease the stress after your death.

At our introductory workshop, we talk about the planning timeline, including what happens when a spouse dies. If you haven’t already attended this workshop, it’s a great first step in getting started on being prepared for the unexpected. See when the next introductory workshop will be offered by checking out our workshop calendar. Please give us a call at 217-726-9200 with any questions you may have or to RSVP for an upcoming workshop.