Planning Ahead Equals No Regrets

 

It’s been a busy few weeks for me (Joshua) here at Edwards Group. I wanted to share some of my real life experiences with you.

The Medicaid Crisis Success Story

A daughter came to me as soon as her mother entered the nursing home. Her mom was still competent, so she was able to sign new powers of attorney, and we implemented a Medicaid asset protection plan that will protect over $40,000 of Mom’s estate.

The Medicaid Crisis Failure

A son came to see me about his mother. She’d been in the nursing home for 2 years and spent $100,000 of her assets. She didn’t have a power of attorney, she is no longer competent, and she only has $10,000 in assets left. I was able to complete the Medicaid application to take that burden off the family and ensure a smooth application process, but there was very little I could do to protect assets because there was so little left.  The son said to me, “I wish I had heard about you two years ago.”

The Pre-planning Success Story

A wife came to see me about her and her husband’s estate plan. The husband had a stroke 3 years ago. He is still competent but she worries about her ability to take care of him in their home in the coming years. I proposed a plan that uses a revocable trust to manage the assets the wife needs to support herself and an irrevocable trust to protect a portion of their estate should the husband enter a nursing home and need Medicaid. The plan will work, but the couple will only reap the full benefits if she and her husband can avoid needing Medicaid during the look-back period. The wife is happy with her plan, but says, “I wish I had done this three years ago when my husband first had his stroke. By now I would already be through the look-back period.”

For me, these three client stories reflect the need to take action as soon as possible. If someone in your family, a client, or just someone you know has recently been diagnosed with a cognitive disability or suffered a stroke, encourage them to take steps to protect themselves and their assets right nowI’m tired of hearing so many people say, “I wish I had done this sooner!”

There are 3 easy ways to get started:

  1. Give us a call at (217)726-9200 to set up a FREE consultation today.
  2. Check out our Consumer’s Guide to Medicaid or the Start Here page on our website.
  3. Attend one of our free community workshops. We have a variety of topics and a full schedule for this Fall! Get started at our main workshops page HERE.
hospice

Approaching End of Life Issues With Forethought

It seems rare these days to see someone approach the end of their life with dignity. Elizabeth Edwards gave her family and the whole world a gift last week as the culmination of her brave battle with cancer ended when she decided to withdraw treatment and go home. In this very well written article from CNN.com, oncology nurse Theresa Brown points out that Elizabeth Edwards helped bring attention to a very hard truth to swallow. “…she acknowledged a truth we Americans keep trying harder and harder to run away from: Everyone dies. It’s not an easy fact to contemplate, but it is true.”

If we approach this topic in advance, many of us will have time to contemplate the very important question: How do I want to die? As you begin to contemplate that question, there are several other important questions that can help guide you through the process.

Who do you want making decisions if you can’t?

After reading the article from oncology nurse Theresa Brown, one of my first thoughts was, “It’s great that Elizabeth Edwards made the decision to stop treatment on her own. Many times somebody else is making that decision.” And often times, the people making the decisions have not been adequately prepared for such a significant job. While nobody likes to talk about such things, I think holiday gatherings with family can be a good time to begin the conversation.

Such conversations can be really hard to start. Realizing this and having experienced it themselves, the founders of www.EngageWithGrace.com started The One Slide Project hoping they could make it easier for all of us to initiate conversations and make our own choices regarding end of life issues. In addition to the 5 questions included on the slide, the website has sample conversation starters and other good resources for end of life care issues.

It is also a good idea to consider having a wave of discussions with family and loved ones. This topic is a very big and weighty issue. One that doesn’t have to be tackled all at once. Having a series of smaller conversations with your friends and family can be most helpful.

Once you have decided who will make the decisions, and even completed an Illinois Statutory Healthcare Power of Attorney, it is still very important to write down details. The POA gives a lot of power to someone, but it does not provide them any guidance about how to enact your wishes.

What documents do I need to create or have in place?

After you have decided who you want your decision maker to be, it is essential to put everything in writing. Written instructions can really benefit and bolster the confidence of your decision maker, and give the rest of your friends and family peace during a very difficult time.

As you can imagine, writing such things down can be very overwhelming. The website www.CaringInfo.org has a lot of helpful resources and articles that can help you understand the process. Of course, we at the Edwards Group are here to help you with such issues!

Our philosophy sets us apart from many other estate planning firms. We don’t just care about the documents involved with end of life issues, though those are vitally important. We care about the bigger process – you, your family, friends and those intangibles that make a life so meaningful. As experienced attorneys dealing with these issues on a daily basis, we can help guide you, facilitate discussions, help you figure out what your wishes are and help you communicate those things to your friends and family. It’s a plan that says, “I put thought into this decision while I was alive and healthy. This is what I want. Rely on these instructions when needed, knowing the choice was mine.”

Please give us a call us at (217) 726-9200 or contact us if we can help you with this very important step in planning.

To continue reading more about the topic of healthcare directives, check out our blog post HERE.

You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick when you need your healthcare directives

Peace of Mind: Can you access your important documents 24/7?

I am writing this from Nashville, Tennessee, where I am on a family vacation. Every year, we spend a week with my parents, brother, sister in law, and nephew.

Being out of town reminded me of an important part of planning for emergency health or disability issues. Suppose you work with me to plan for those issues, and we prepare healthcare powers of attorney and a living will. Then you are on a trip, maybe to Nashville or somewhere else out of state. If something happens and you end up in the hospital or emergency room, will you have access to your important legal documents? If the doctors ask for proof that your spouse or loved one has authority to make decisions on your behalf, will you be able to provide it? Will the doctors even talk to your loved one without written permission because of the privacy laws?

Do you travel with copies of your powers of attorney and living will? If not, then if something happens you may not have access to the documents when you need them. When we are talking about legal decisions regarding healthcare or end of life issues, lack of access to the documents at the right time means the documents are worthless at that moment.

If you don’t have immediate access to the documents you need, what are your options?

  • Deal with it without using the legal documents. This means that your decisions and the helpers you have designated to carry out those decisions may not be followed, or at least won’t be followed as easily, quickly, or accurately.
  • Try to get a copy of the documents from your attorney. Not a bad plan, but most law offices aren’t open 24/7. What if you are injured in the middle of the night during a holiday weekend? Or maybe you are in Hawaii with a big time difference and the law office is closed when you contact them? Our office is always glad to provide copies of documents, but we can’t guarantee we can get them to you around the clock.
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    Neither of these options is adequate. So, how do we make sure that you have quick access to the documents when you need them? For our clients who are members of our Dynasty Program, we provide a membership to DocuBank.

    What is DocuBank? It’s a business that was created to help people have immediate access to their legal healthcare documents when they need them. They have solved the exact problem we are talking about. For an annual fee, DocuBank will get copies of your documents to you, anytime, day or night, no matter where you are.

    How does DocuBank work? As part of the planning process, our clients sign a DocuBank application that provides emergency contact info and important medical information. We then send that application to DocuBank, along with copies of the client’s healthcare power of attorney and living will. The client will later get in the mail a wallet card they can carry at all times that explains how to access those documents. By calling an 800 number or logging in to a web site and putting in a PIN # (that is listed on the wallet card), DocuBank will provide the legal documents within minutes, either via the web or fax. Check out more info at www.docubank.com.

    Do you know someone who would appreciate the kind of peace of mind that a DocuBank membership provides? Have them give us a call today at (217) 726-9200.