Disability and special needs

long-term care insurance

Should I Buy Long-term Care Insurance?

The outrageous cost of care is one of the biggest risks to those getting older. This question looms large in the mind of many who are of retirement age…

How will I (we) pay for care costs?

And many clients ask us…

Should we buy long-term care insurance?

There is a lot of confusion and fear around the long-term care insurance industry, but we still believe that long-term care insurance is the #1 best way to protect yourself from exorbitant care costs.

When we see a client who needs care and has long-term care insurance, it is usually a big relief! Their family already has plenty of things to sort out as far as the details of the care and the medical needs that are happening. When it comes to how to pay for it, all they do is sit back and let the insurance company write the checks. It’s a big load off for the family! And they get to focus on other important things during a really difficult time.

There are legal tools, like Nest Egg Trusts and VA and Medicaid benefit planning, that can be used to help plan for care costs. Long-term care insurance is just another financial tool that can be used. Some clients rely mostly on the legal tools and some rely mostly on the financial tool of long-term care insurance. Some clients rely on both types of tools — a kind of “belt and suspenders” approach to planning. We generally believe the more tools you have in the toolbox, the more effectively you can build a planning strategy.

How Does Long-term Care Insurance Work?

The industry has been in flux recently, creating a lot of fear around this topic. Currently, there are two types of long-term care insurance. One is kind of on its way out, and the other is more effectively addressing the problems that have emerged in the industry.

  1. Traditional long-term care insurance. You pay a premium on this policy, and when you need care, the insurance company pays so much a day or so much a month, for so many months OR until a set maximum amount of money is used up. (Some old policies have unlimited benefits, but in more recent years insurance companies have stopped selling the unlimited benefits kind.) With the traditional LTC insurance, what happens if you don’t need care? Do you get your money back? No, the insurance company keeps your money, and you’re out of luck. (Except in very rare and unique policies.)
  2. Hybrid long-term care insurance. This is a life insurance policy that has a special rider to allow you to tap into the money prior to death in order to pay for care. If you don’t end up needing long-term care, then the money goes to your family or beneficiaries just like life insurance would. Most people who buy LTC insurance these days are getting the hybrid type.

There are very few companies still selling traditional policies, and most people prefer the hybrid policies anyway, so there isn’t nearly as much risk as there used to be for the consumer. After some bumpy times, it appears as though the industry has figured out a better way to stay in business and provide a service to clients.

Should I Buy LTC Insurance?

Yes, it is a great idea for most people. If you can qualify medically, and if you can afford it, it is certainly something we urge you to strongly consider. As you age or as you begin to develop more health issues, the policies get more expensive. At some point, you may not be able to get a policy at all.

It is generally a good idea to consider buying LTC insurance in your 50’s or 60’s. It’s not necessarily too late if you’re in your 70’s, but it really depends on your health.

One great thing about LTC insurance is that it provides resources to pay for care at home. Care at home is very limited under Medicaid benefits, and yet the majority of people we speak to have strong preferences about staying at home as long as possible. You can get care at home under VA benefits, but sometimes the VA benefits are not enough to pay for all the care that is needed. A good LTC insurance policy will let you get plenty of care to stay at home as long as possible while you continue to age.

If you don’t qualify for LTC insurance, then you may want to pursue legal options such as a Nest Egg Trust to protect your assets and help you more easily qualify for future benefits that will help pay for care.

If you do qualify for LTC insurance, you may still want to consider a Nest Egg Trust as additional protections.

Over 55 years old? Here are three things you should know about nursing home care.

 

How Do I Check Into LTC Insurance?

If you are interested in checking into LTC insurance, you should chat with your financial advisor who can explain the various policies available. They can tell you some general options and estimated prices based on your situation.

To get more specific pricing and see if you qualify, you will need to go through underwriting. This involves a medical check up (such as taking blood samples, blood pressure, etc.) and also giving the insurance company permission to get copies of your medical history. Once the insurance company has this information, then they can give you a more specific price quote and options, which you can discuss with your financial advisor.

One last thing… WE DO NOT sell insurance. We are a law firm. However, we are familiar with a lot of advisors and can often recommend someone if you don’t have an advisor you’re already working with. Just give us a call at 217-726-9200.

Nest Egg Trusts: A Tool to Protect Your Property and Life Savings

There's a real problem facing Americans over the age of 65 -- the cost of nursing home care. It's expensive and often unavoidable. A lucky few have enough income to cover the $80,000 per year cost. But how does the average person afford it?

Unfortunately, many "spend down" their property and savings so they can qualify for benefits. But...

There is another way.

You may have heard of an irrevocable trust, or what we call a nest egg trust. This common tool helps many families who want to protect assets and plan ahead for future aging and care costs.

Aren't Trusts Just for Wealthy People?

It's a common misconception that trusts are only for the wealthy. However, a nest egg trust is designed for regular, hardworking folks who have saved a bit for retirement. Many families who want to protect assets and plan ahead for future aging and care are deciding that a nest egg trust is the right tool for them.

So, What's a Nest Egg Trust?

A nest egg trust is an irrevocable trust that protects your hard-earned savings and also helps you qualify for care benefits if you need some form of long-term care. There are many different types of trusts, and each depends on a person's goals and situation. But the bottom line is they protect your property and savings so you can get the care you deserve without losing your entire financial legacy. You can read more about trusts and how they work here.

Isn't That Too Good to Be True?

You qualify for Medicaid benefits AND you get to keep your hard-earned savings and assets? Yes, you do, but the nest egg trust involves a trade-off. To protect your assets, you must give up some control of them. What does this mean? It means any assets you put into the trust have some restrictions, so you can't spend them any way you want anytime you want.

Of course, no one wants to give up control of their assets, but many families find that it is well worth the trade-off to protect their financial legacy (and save things like the family farm). They even find that the control they give up is much less than they expected.

How Do I Set Up a Trust -- Isn't It Complicated?

If you were to do it on your own, yes, it would be complicated. But with the help of an experienced and trusted elder law attorney, it's not that complicated. And it's well worth your effort. Properly planning for your future is one of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones (and yourself!). Knowing your financial legacy is safe gives you a priceless amount of peace of mind.

How Can Edwards Group Help?

In addition to setting up a trust, we will help guide you through making decisions around the trust. We have more than a decade of experience in creating this type of trust for people -- we know the problems to anticipate and address; we know how to make the decision-making process a bit easier; and we know the right questions to ask to make sure YOUR trust works for YOU and your unique family and circumstances. If you think a nest egg trust might be right for you, we encourage you to give us a call at 217-726-9200. We will be happy to review your situation with you and counsel you as to whether a nest egg trust is best for your circumstances and the goals you want to achieve.

To learn more on your own about nest egg trusts, download this FREE resource -- Nest Egg Trusts: A Good Tool to Protect Property and Savings.

save family farm

Over 55 years old? Three things you should know about nursing home care.

You may be a couple decades away from needing nursing home care, but the sooner you can understand and plan for the costs involved, the better.

Here are three truths every senior should know about nursing homes:

 

1. You’ll probably need nursing home care.

The likelihood you’ll need to pay for this type of care is high: 70% of Americans 65 and older will need some form of long-term care, and 35% will spend time in a nursing home.

2. It’s going to be expensive.

The odds that this care will be expensive? 100%.

Nursing homes in Central Illinois cost about $80,000 per year. That’s roughly $6,500 per month! Most people don’t have that type of monthly income during retirement.

3. Without proper planning, you’ll lose your hard-earned life savings.

If you don’t have enough income to cover the cost of care as you age, you will need to use your life savings and other assets to pay for nursing home care. That means your financial legacy, including things like the family farm, could disappear without proper planning.

Thankfully, with proper planning you can prepare, save your legacy, and get the kind of quality care you or your loved one deserves. Here’s one way to do it.

As a response to the challenges of aging in our current time, our firm has developed a process to plan ahead for the last decades of life, when so many people face financial and physical challenges. Life Care Planning looks ahead to the various stages that individuals and families may go through during the aging process, and creates a plan to make navigating that time a little easier and less stressful. Learn more about the 5 Stages of Life Care Planning here. If you’d like to take the first step toward planning, give us a call at 217-726-9200, and we’ll help you schedule your Initial Meeting.

Increase Your Quality of Healthcare With These 5 Steps

When you or a loved one are dealing with a lot of medical issues, or even “just one” complex issue, the paperwork can become overwhelming.

Over the years, Edwards Group has evolved into a comprehensive, interdisciplinary resource for families facing the challenges of aging. 

Elder Care Advisor Sandy Eisenmann recently discussed with me what people should consider when it comes to medical records and managing that information. “It really depends on the unique situation of each family, but these are a few of my generic recommendations…”

5 Ways to Organize Medical Records and Increase Your Quality of Care 

1. Keep all records until the charges associated with the procedure or diagnosis have been resolved. This is the minimum amount of time that you should keep the records or notes.

2. Keep ALL surgical and pathology reports. The surgical reports can be helpful if more related procedures are needed in the future. Pathology reports are important in case a disease recurs, but they can also be helpful to other family members who may need them as a reference.

3. Create a lists of ALL doctors, their speciality, and/or what they treated you for. It’s helpful to have this all gathered in one place, especially if you or your loved one are seeing multiple specialists.

4. Keep an updated and thorough history/timeline to help you explain the complex condition or to help other doctors more easily understand what has transpired.

5. Keep a current, up-to-date medication list. Many people may not think of this as “medical records,” but it is vital to receiving accurate care. Doctors’ offices don’t communicate with each other as much as you may think, so if you have multiple doctors, it’s important for you to know at all times what medicines you are taking and what the dosages are.

If there are generic or hereditary considerations, then all of these things can be especially important to keep track of so future family members can have better information if they themselves have to be treated for the same condition.

You may also want to consider starting a 3-ring binder to help you organize paperwork and track tests and appointments if the condition is complex or chronic. That way you can have ALL information connected to the condition in one place — doctors notes, test results, EOBs, co-pay receipts, support organizations, etc.

If you or a loved one needs help with the challenges of aging or dealing with chronic illness or disability, we encourage you to give us a call at 217-726-9200. Our Elder Care Advisors will be more than happy to discuss your situation and see if there are ways we can lessen the burden for your family.

4 Things You Can Do to Avoid a Messy Guardianship

You may have read in a previous post that Buzz Aldrin has been fighting with his children over his own competency. Aldrin’s children are concerned that he is not able to make good choices any longer… In that same article we talked with Attorney Amanda Lundeen about what everyone should know about adult guardianships. In that same conversation, she gave us four tips to avoid an ugly guardianship yourself.

How to Avoid a Messy Guardianship

1. Get good Powers of Attorney in place while you’re well.

Planning early is more effective than planning during a crisis. Research is pretty clear that decision-making ability and cognition start declining as people age. It is important to think about comprehensive planning before this becomes problematic — somewhere around 60-65 is typically a good rule of thumb.

2. Keep your Powers of Attorney (and your plan) up to date.

It is a pain, but many institutions will not honor a Power of Attorney that is more than a year or two old. We say this all the time, but estate planning is not a one-time deal. Keep your plan up to date with the 3 L’s of Estate Planning, or join our Dynasty Program and be sure your plan will be ready for action when the time comes.

3. Use a professional who understands down-the-road needs of seniors.

Experienced elder law attorneys should be able to help you anticipate what needs may arise in the future. In addition, they should have effective planning tools that can help address those needs.

4. Communicate with your family.

Tell them who you’ve named and consider explaining your thinking on that decision. It’s also important to discuss how you want things dealt with. One of the biggest challenges as we age is discussing with our children things that we’ve never discussed with them before — finances, healthcare, end-of-life preferences, etc. The sooner you can start having those conversations, the easier it will be when things become difficult and an acute problem crops up. The more your children understand your feelings on these issues, the better they will be able to make the decisions you’d want made. This sets them up for success, and certainly will benefit you in the long-run as well.

As usual, planning ahead and thinking through the challenges of aging before they happen is the best way to make sure you and your family can face these difficulties without creating extra stress or expense. Most people don’t know how to manage all the issues that arise with aging loved ones, so Edwards Group developed a holistic way to help families think through the legal, financial, and care issues that develop as someone ages.

In addition to a thorough and effective estate plan, a Life Care Plan offers the option of partnering with us to plan for your care and help you navigate decisions on your journey through the aging process. Our latest workshop, Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning and Peace of Mind, is a great place to start learning about the components of an effective plan that will effectively address the challenges of aging while protecting your legacy. Call us at 217-726-9200 to RSVP for an upcoming workshop.

 

helper; trustee; executor

Elder Care Advisors: Helping People Age Well

These days, our extended life span creates a lot of challenges when it comes to managing the financial, physical, medical, and emotional reality of aging in America. We recently asked those who are facing retirement, or beginning to struggle with the challenges of aging, what their top concerns were. Here is what they said:

  • I want to stay in my home as long as possible.
  • I’m concerned about navigating the long-term care system and finding good care.
  • I’m worried about not being able to drive anymore and being isolated and lonely.
  • How do I maintain my independence for as long as possible?
  • I’m concerned about how to find quality care I can afford.
  • I’m worried about health issues and paying for healthcare.
  • I want to preserve my options as I age — financial, medical and quality of life.
  • I’m worried about finding good assisted living or nursing homes when the time comes.
  • What will I do if my family isn’t nearby and I need them? My kids live in New Jersey and Arizona.

We know there are thousands of families struggling with these issues on a daily basis in Central Illinois, and it’s why we’ve developed a solution. When Attorney David Edwards started his own law firm in 2008, he knew he wanted a firm solely dedicated to effective estate planning and the tremendous peace of mind it can bring to families. What he didn’t know was that his journey would lead to helping families achieve peace of mind through more than just legal planning. As we helped more and more families navigate the challenges of aging, find ways to pay for good nursing care for loved ones, and helped Veterans obtain benefits to pay for in-home care as they aged, it became apparent that nearly every family struggles with this time of life. We think it’s the most stressful time of the lifespan!

What is an Elder Care Advisor?

As a result, we’ve formed an interdisciplinary team that works together to identify current and potential care needs, locate appropriate care, preserve family wealth to the greatest extent possible, and support the family during this stressful time. As a part of that interdisciplinary team, the Elder Care Advisors serve as guide, encourager, counselor, resource gatherer, and advocate during the journey. Our Elder Care Advisors include a nurse, physical therapist, social worker, EMT, etc. Each one has unique experiences that equip them to support families and create personalized plans that confront the challenges those families face.

What is a Life Care Plan?

A Life Care Plan defines, organizes, prioritizes, and mobilizes every aspect of an elder’s care. The goal of Life Care Planning is to promote and maintain the health, safety, well-being, and quality of life for those who are struggling with the challenges of aging. Every Life Care Plan is designed to do three things:

  1. Preserve Quality of Life

    Make sure the elder loved one gets appropriate care (whether at home or in a residential facility) in order to maintain the quality of life that he or she desires.

  2. Pay for Care

    Find solutions to help pay for long-term care and guide families through the issues created by the high cost of care.

  3. Offer Peace of Mind

    Offer peace of mind that results when the right choices are made to ensure loved ones are safe and getting the right care while preserving family resources.

Read more about WHO needs a Life Care Plan here.

If you or a loved one are struggling with the challenges or expense of aging, Edwards Group can help! Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to schedule a meeting or a phone consultation with an Elder Care Advisor. You don’t have to struggle on this journey alone. We walk this path with you. Help and support are available. Give us a call today!

nursing home medicaid planning

4 Questions to Answer When Facing a Healthcare Crisis

Most people don’t connect estate planning and healthcare issues. However, as people live longer and face the skyrocketing costs of aging in America, a new aspect of estate planning has emerged. We call it “Life Care Planning.” This type of planning addresses the type of care you may need toward the end of life and how to pay for that care.

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 can arise because of stroke, dementia or any number of serious health problems that develop as people age.

4 Questions Every Family Will Have to Answer When Faced With a Health Crisis for an Aging Loved One

When health problems crop up, you and your family will come face to face with the following questions:

  1. How do we pay for good care?
  2. How do we keep the peace in the family during this extremely stressful time?
  3. How do we protect our loved one’s (or our) life savings if the average cost of a nursing home in Central Illinois is $78,000 a year?
  4. How can we take maximum advantage of the help that is available to pay for good care?

Part of what we do in guiding families through this stressful time of life is to help answer these questions by creating a Good Care Roadmap.

We also understand that timing is critical when families are facing serious transition points such as a cancer diagnosis, progressing dementia or a sudden stroke. If you or someone you love is in crisis because of a serious medical issue, we urge you to give our Elder Care Advisors a call today at 217-726-9200. They guide families through this time of life on a daily basis. It’s all they do everyday!

We regularly hear from families who say they can’t imagine getting through this difficult time without the help of an experienced guide. It is one of our greatest pleasures to relieve stress and help get good care for loved ones who are aging!

Medicaid FAQ

Using a government benefit such as Medicaid is a fairly common way to pay for long-term care. According to AARP, 65% of nursing home residents use Medicaid to pay for their care. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there, which makes this very stressful time of life even harder for everyone involved.

Here are 7 common questions about Medicaid that we are frequently asked:

Q1: My loved one needs nursing care and I don’t know how to pay for it. How can an elder law attorney help?

A: An elder law attorney can help you legally set aside savings for the benefit of nursing home residents that would otherwise be economically devastated by the cost of nursing home care. Medicaid planning savings can be used for many things not covered by Medicaid, such as a private room for those with behavioral issues from dementia or companion caregivers to help supplement many overworked nursing homes. Without Medicaid planning, your family will have to get out their own checkbook or debit card to buy you the things you need. Learn more about Medicaid Planning with our free report.

Q2: My mother is already in a nursing home. Isn’t it too late to plan?

A: As long as you (or somebody you know) are writing checks to a nursing home, then it’s not too late. Good planning can gain access to benefits sooner than you thought possible, and in bigger amounts than you thought possible, all while still protecting your house, your savings or property. Read how an elder law attorney can help even if your loved one is already in a nursing home.

Q3: I was told there was nothing that could be done except to “spend down” all the money.

A: This piece of wrong information usually comes from nursing home case workers. As nice and knowledgeable as those workers are, they are not experts in the financial planning or legal field. You need an advocate, so you have more options and more resources available to you and your family. Experienced elder law attorneys, such as Edwards Group, help families face these issues every single day. There are other options besides spending down all your assets. We generally see four periods of planning when it comes to paying for a nursing home.

Q4: Will I lose my home?

A: What happens to the house depends on whether a person is single or married. If married, and one spouse goes to the nursing home, the healthy spouse can rest easy because the home is protected.

However, if a single person needs nursing home care, the house is not protected. Although someone can possibly get Medicaid while owning a house, eventually the state will put a lien on the house to recoup the benefits paid.

Q5: How much money can be saved by consulting an elder law attorney?

A: This answer varies from family to family, and also depends on if your loved one is already in a nursing home, but at the very minimum, often 50 to 80% of remaining assets can be saved. The earlier you start planning, the more can be protected.

Q6: Won’t the help of an attorney be too expensive?

A: The average cost of a nursing home in Springfield is around $6500 a month, or about $78,000 per year. Now that’s expensive! The cost of planning varies from family to family, but families often feel it’s the best money they’ve spent in their life. The cost of the elder law attorney will be only a small fraction of the savings or money protected.

Q7: This sounds too good to be true. Is it legal and ethical? Will it really work?

A: Yes, this a legal and ethical approach to paying the outrageous costs of long-term care. Much like tax laws, there are incredibly complex rules and regulations that specifically allow for this type of planning. Much like tax attorneys, elder law attorneys have experienced staff members who are well-versed in the complications of VA and Medicaid benefits, and understand what it takes to get approval. This is all we do every day, all day.

If you need to speak to someone right away about your current situation, feel free to call us at 217-726-9200 or email us at info@EdwardsGroupLLC.com. One of our Client Coordinators will be happy to help you. To continue learning more about long-term care planning, click here to watch a short video from Attorney David Edwards on why you need long-term care planning.

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 report. 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 every stage of life. Many of our workshops address effective planning across the lifespan, while some focus in on the years when people begin to face the challenges of aging. Choose the one that’s best for you, or attend all of them! Call 217-726-9200 to RSVP and save yourself a spot.
  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 Elder Care Advisor, 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 Elder Care Advisor, Melissa Coulter. She loves helping families find solutions for this very stressful time of life. If you want to learn more about planning at every stage of the lifespan, feel free to attend an upcoming workshop, Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind.