Introducing: Edwards Group LLC Youtube Channel

Scheduling an initial meeting or attending a workshop can be a great way to learn about the legal tools available to you. But with the hectic nature of everyday life, watching a YouTube video can be a quicker and more efficient way to access basic estate planning information. Edwards Group is launching a YouTube Channel to help you accomplish your estate planning goals, regardless of how busy your everyday life is. Please click on the topics below to learn more from the Edwards Group’s Youtube Channel:

What is a trust?

What types of trusts are available to me? 

How can I find and pay for a good nursing home?

What is an Elder Law Attorney?

 What can I expect during the estate planning process?

What is life-care planning?

Why You Need Long-term Care Planning

One of the most important things an estate planning/elder law attorney can help you accomplish is taking good care of your loved ones as they age. Good elder law attorneys will also help find ways to pay for care. David Edwards, Estate Planning Attorney at Edwards Group LLC, explains how long-term care planning can help you accomplish these goals in the video below:

Scheduling an appointment or attending a workshop will help you learn more about the legal tools available to you. Your initial meeting with Edwards Group will last about 45 minutes. During that time you’ll talk with David to decide if he can be of any help to you and your family. Please contact Tarina at Tarina@EdwardsGroupLL.com to schedule an appointment today.

(Video) What is an elder law attorney?

As people live longer and longer, it is more and more important to have an experienced elder law attorney on your side. If you have a loved one who is aging, or are concerned about the issues of aging for yourself or a spouse, please read on to find out what elder law attorneys do and how to choose a good one…

Elder law attorneys work with families to solve problems related to aging. They meet with, and help, clients reach goals related to finances and healthcare. They often collaborate with other professionals such as financial advisors, life insurance professionals and tax professionals to ensure an effective comprehensive plan for clients.

In addition to general estate planning, elder law attorneys should have expertise in helping plan for incapacity (due to things like a stroke) or long-term care needs. When it comes to long-term care planning, elder law attorneys coordinate private and public resources to ensure the client’s right to quality care.

Founding attorney, David Edwards, explains a little about elder law attorneys in the short video above.

How do you choose a good elder law attorney?

Because elder law is a specialized field, it is important to ask some specific questions of any elder law attorney you are considering working with. It is important that you feel you can trust the attorney and his/her staff, otherwise you may not end up with effective solutions for your goals.

5 Questions to Ask an Elder Law Attorney

  1. How many Medicaid applications have you processed? Was the firm able to protect assets in most of these cases? Have you ever been turned down for an application?
  2. Are you accredited with the VA? As with many government programs, there are fairly strict standards that protect citizens from those looking to take advantage of seniors or Veterans. In order to be involved with a VA application, an attorney must be accredited by the VA.
  3. Have you done VA apps for in-home care, assisted living and nursing home care? Each one is slightly different. Experience matters when it comes to the type of app your family might need.
  4. Do you have staff solely focused on helping families with long-term care issues? Helping families apply for public programs to offset the skyrocketing costs of long-term care is a very involved process. It’s probably no surprise that the bureaucracy of the process can be overwhelming (and tricky) for those who are not experienced with it. Mistakes during the process are very costly – emotionally and financially.
  5. Does the firm have free information to help families get started? This is a big decision.  Like we said above, you must be sure you can trust the attorney you choose to work with. Taking advantage of free educational materials or free workshops is a great way to get to know the attorney. It’s also important to get to know his staff along with the general feel and philosophy of the firm. Not every family is a good fit for every attorney. It is a very personal decision.

You can read more about choosing an elder law attorney at the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys’ website. Or, be sure to take a look at these additional articles on our website:

7 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help if Your Loved One is Already in a Nursing Facility

9 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help With In-home Care

Not Your Best Option: Life Estate Deeds

So, what are life estates or life estate deeds?

Sometimes, instead of using a trust, people will use a life estate deed to try and protect a house or farmland. This means they deed the land to their kids but reserve the right to still use the house or the farm as long as they are living. Because all of the instructions are contained in the deed itself, it can sound like a nice, simple solution. Life estates can seem like a cheaper and easier alternative to a trust…

But life estate deeds do not always work as advertised.

A Life Estate Case Study

The house had been put into a life estate a while back. The mom was now in a situation where she needed more care and was going to a nursing home. The family wanted to sell the house, but if they sold the house, then a percentage of the house would be considered an asset for the purposes of Medicaid. Even with good legal planning, some of the funds would have to be spent on nursing home costs, and the ultimate goal of planning is to protect your hard-earned money and assets (like your house) that you hoped could be a legacy for your family someday.We recently had a situation here at the office that is a good example of why life estates are generally not a good option.

4 Reasons Life Estates Don’t Work

1. They don’t protect ALL the value. People are surprised by how much of the value of their house or property is still considered theirs if they need Medicaid. This is all governed by a Medicaid table. (See it here.) So, what are the exact problems with life estates and why don’t life estate deeds “work”?

Here’s how that works: if someone is 65-years-old, Medicaid says that almost 68% of the house is still considered yours. At age 70, 60.5% is yours. At age 80, 43.66% of the value of the house still counts as yours. 

So what does this mean? It means that if you are 70-years-old, have a stroke and need to go to a nursing home, when your house is sold then 60.5% of the house sale money stays in your name and is exposed to long term care costs. This is true even if it has been more than 5 years since the deed was done.

2. You don’t own or fully control your house or property anymore. If something unexpected happens and you “need” to sell the property, you can’t without getting the kids to sign off on it, because they actually own the property. You don’t own it anymore (even though you have the right to use it for the rest of your life).

3. You can’t change who gets it after you are gone. With a deed, it’s a done deal. The house goes to your kids at your death — no matter what. There is no way to change it. So, if your child dies before you do, you can’t reconsider who the house or property goes to. It will go through his or her estate and be completely out of your control (even though you have the right to use it for the rest of your life).

4. Life estate deeds could prevent you from getting VA benefits. The VA sees things differently and assumes that any income interest or life estate you might have are entirely yours (and therefore counted as an asset). Depending on the situation, this could cause you to be denied VA benefits. For instance, farmland with a life estate would typically prevent VA benefits without further planning.

 What’s the Solution?

In contrast to the above issues with life estates, nest egg trusts can effectively address all of these issues:

• They can protect 100% of the value once 5 years has passed.

• You can be the trustee of the trust where your farm or home is kept, which means you can sell the property, buy a different house if you want, etc.

• You can reserve a rewrite power (called a “power of appointment”) so you can change who gets it at death. That way, if circumstances change, you can respond to them appropriately.

• A trust can be set up to allow VA benefits or be adjusted later to qualify for VA benefits.

Trusts are one of the best tools that we have in our legal toolbox to help clients, and our firm is one of the best at setting them up. If you are considering a life estate deed, please give us a call first to see if there are better options available for your unique situation.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about estate planning or elder law, Medicaid planning, long-term care planning or Veterans benefits, please give us a call at 217-726-9200. We’d be more than happy to speak with you!

 

Threats to Medicaid: Can You Prove It?

Cash payments or informal caregiver arrangements can affect your loved one’s ability to qualify for Medicaid upon going into a nursing home. Here’s what you need to know…

Giving Money to Family Can Jeopardize Medicaid Eligibility

When someone applies for Medicaid, the state looks back 5 years to see if any money was given away to the family. If so, the state imposes a penalty, or a delay of benefits. Sometimes money was clearly given to the family. Other times, it was used for the loved one, but the family can’t prove it. Check out the case below for a specific example.

Michigan Family’s Benefits Delayed – No Proof of Expenses

Betty Jensen was aging and suffering from dementia. She remained in her own home, but started needing more and more assistance to stay there. In May of 2011, her grandson (Jason) acted on her behalf and hired someone to be Ms. Jensen’s caregiver.

When he hired the caregiver, Jason did so informally without a written contract. For nearly a year, Jason paid the caregiver using almost $19,000 worth of Ms. Jensen’s assets. In March of 2012, Ms. Jensen’s dementia progressed to the point where she had to enter a nursing home.

In April of 2012, Jason applied for Medicaid benefits to help offset the cost of his grandmother’s care. While she was found eligible for benefits, the Department of Human Services (DHS) penalized her for “divesting” funds. They classified the payments to the caregiver (along with some other “gifts”) as “divestments.” That meant her Medicaid benefits were delayed for 7 months and 2 days.

Sadly, Ms. Jensen died before Medicaid started covering her nursing home expenses. (In Central Illinois, this delay would have cost Ms. Jensen and/or her family approximately $35,000!)

Her grandson appealed the ruling and lost, because the payments were made to the caregiver without a written agreement that should have been put into place before care began. The case was appealed several more times with varying results, but ultimately the courts sided with DHS, stating that an agreement with a caregiver needs to be written and official.

Caregiver Agreements in Illinois

The above case happened in Michigan, but the same thing could have easily happened in Illinois. The problem with paying cash for caregivers or hiring home help without any documentation is that there is no proof where the money went. Any “gifts” can cause a delay in benefits. And if a family member is taking out large amounts of cash or writing checks without documentation, the caseworkers may assume they are gifts.

Read more about ways elder law attorneys like us can help with in-home care: 9 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help with In-home Care

The Complex World of Medicaid

Medicaid is our country’s largest healthcare benefits program, paying 70% of all nursing home bills in the US. One in six Americans are covered by it. The laws governing Medicaid are some of the most complex and confusing laws in existence. They are often nearly impossible to understand without highly experienced legal assistance. Without proper planning and advice, many people unnecessarily jeopardize their future care, their well-being, and the security of their family.

Medicaid Planning Can Help Even if You’re Already in Nursing Care

Medicaid planning (or what we here like to call Life Care Planning) ideally should be started when you are still able to make sound legal and financial decisions. (Somewhere around the age of 65.) That way you can still have control over what you want and how you want to live.

What many don’t know is that even if you’re already in a nursing home, it’s rarely too late to do planning that can save some of your financial resources. Read our article, “7 Ways an Elder Law Attorney Can Help Even if Your Loved One is in a Nursing Facility

To find out more about avoiding the crushing costs of long-term care, make plans to attend one of our upcoming workshops – Avoid Nursing Home Poverty: 13 Misconceptions About Long-term CareIf, after attending the workshop (where you won’t be pressured at all) you decide to work with us, you’ll receive $200 off your initial meeting fee if you schedule it within 30 days of attending the workshop. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to sign up for our next workshop.

The Secret Test for Your Named Helper

Naming a helper for your plan is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever have to make, but you don’t have to do it alone. Read on for guidance in choosing your executor, trustee or Power of Attorney.

Be Careful Who You Choose

I heard another heartbreaking story the other day – an older couple, the man has a terminal illness and he’s worried about his wife after he’s gone. (That part’s normal.) The heartbreaking part is he’s worried because his wife can’t say no to their youngest son (and the son has been named executor because he lives so close by), but the son is taking advantage of his mom financially even while the husband is still alive. The husband is wondering, “What on earth will happen after I’m gone, if he’s already caused this much damage with me keeping an eye on her?”

Every plan needs a good helper. We talk it ALL the time because it’s vitally important. Everyone will come to a point in their life where they will need some sort of helper, whether that be a Power of Attorney, a trustee or an executor.

About two years ago we created a paper newsletter with expanded information on choosing good helpers. Even now, we still use it because it’s full of great information. If you’d like a copy of our paper newsletter on choosing good helpers, you can get instant access to it by clicking this link. But if you’d prefer, you can call Tarina at 217-726-9200 and ask her to mail you a copy.

The Secret Test for a Helper

So, what’s the secret test for a named helper? How can you know if you can’t trust a potential helper to make decisions for you when you can’t make decisions yourself?

The secret test of a helper is to look at them and see how they handle their own lives now.

  • Are they organized?
  • Do they have things “under control”?
  • Do they make wise decisions?
  • Are they handling their own money well?
  • Are they generous and kind?

After you’re gone, people will generally handle your money worse than they handle their own. They will generally be more difficult to deal with in serving as your helper than they are in dealing with their own lives. This is just the cold, hard truth that we’ve seen over and over.

Being a helper is stressful (especially since if often happens after a crisis or death), and the stress leads people to act worse than they normally do.

So, however they’re handling things now, they’ll actually do a worse job after you’re gone. Does that give you cause for concern? If so, you should pick a different helper. As you think about someone to be a helper, consider these duties they will possibly help with. And learn more about “7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For” here.

How Edwards Group Can Help

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 guide you through the process of deciding who is best. While you’ll only do this once in your lifetime (maybe twice), we’ve helped hundreds of families in the seven years our firm has been solely dedicated to estate planning and elder law. We’ve seen A LOT and gained a lot of wisdom from the families we help on a daily basis. We can help you know what to do and what NOT to do.

Give us a call at 217-726-9200 and plan to attend an upcoming workshop today. If you attend one of our workshops, you’ll receive $200 off your initial meeting fee (if you schedule your appointment within 30 days of the workshop). We do this so you’ll know, before spending your hard-earned money, if we’re the right firm for you. Attending a workshop makes the planning process easier and more effective.

The greatest threat to an effective estate plan is not taking any action at all, so take your first step today and call us at 217-726-9200.

4 Periods of Planning for a Nursing Home

We got another one of those calls the other day. It went something like this: “Mom has been in the nursing home for 3 years now and her money is gone. Is there anything we can do?” Our hearts sink when we hear this, because for this family, it’s too late for a lot of planning options.

How do you deal with a parent or spouse who can’t stay at home anymore? It’s one of the most stressful things a family can face. Few know what to do because they have never faced this issue before.

The key is the earlier we can plan, the more we can do, the more assets we can protect, and the easier we can make it on the family.

Generally, we see 4 different periods of planning. How much we can do declines as time passes.

1. Too late. When the money has all been spent on the nursing home over several years, it might be too late to protect assets. But we can help the family deal with all the mountains of paperwork and complete the Medicaid application. Oftentimes, our Medicaid team spends 40-50 hours completing a Medicaid application! How long would it take someone less experienced? We can help take the stress off of the family.

2. Not too late. “Mom’s Medicare coverage for nursing home care runs out in about 3 weeks. What do we do?” At this point, the family hasn’t spent any of mom’s money, but in 3 weeks they will start spending A LOT of her savings on the nursing home. (Around $5000 per month in Central Illinois.) We can still do a lot for this family. We call this a “crisis plan” and we move quickly to maximize Medicaid and VA benefits. Often we can still protect 50% or more of mom’s assets.

3. Protect your nest egg. What if mom is still living at home, but her health is going downhill? The family sees a point in the future when she will need care. So how do you plan ahead? One option is to create a special kind of trust, a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, to protect the nest egg. The nest egg includes the assets she doesn’t plan to need or spend during her life. Maybe we protect the house or some savings or investments, while still leaving enough for her to continue to live well. Whatever assets were placed in the trust will be 100% protected once 5 years have passed.

4. Best option. The absolute best option is to buy long-term care insurance when you are still young and healthy. Often it’s too expensive or not available once you hit retirement age. Those who buy good long-term care insurance can rest easy, knowing the insurance company will help pay for their future care, instead of it coming out of their family’s inheritance.

For more details on how nursing home crisis planning works, click here to read a case study.

To find out when our next free workshop on long-term care planning will be held, click here.

checkbook

The Checkbook Test: Can your executor or trustee pass it?

Good “helpers” are essential to an effective plan. Could the people you’ve chosen as executor, trustee, power of attorney or guardian pass this simple test?

Every Estate Plan Needs a Good Helper

We talk about good “helpers” a lot, and that’s because they are vitally important to an effective estate plan. Helpers are the people who will carry out your plan when the time comes. They can be known by different names depending on which document names them as a helper. Some helpers are trustees for trusts, some are executors for wills, some are power of attorney for health or finances, and some helpers are guardians for minor children. No matter the title, their job is essentially the same – to make good choices and to act for you when you cannot do it for yourself. (Read more about choosing good helpers here.)

The Checkbook Test

There is a very simple way to gauge whether you have chosen the right person to be one of your “helpers.”

Imagine the person you have chosen (or are considering choosing) as your executor or trustee. Now, imagine giving them your checkbook and letting them pay your bills for a couple months. How does that make you feel? Do you feel nervous? Anxious? If so, you may want to reconsider who you’ve chosen as a helper. 

Read about 7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For here.

So, how can Edwards Group help?

If you’ve been around Edwards Group for any amount of time, we hope that you’ve seen how we approach estate planning differently. One of the things we do differently is by counseling our clients as they make the hard decisions that have to be made when creating an estate plan. We have experience that most people don’t. We do estate planning all day every day, and we’ve done it for nearly a decade now. We can help guide our clients through these hard choices.

If you need help choosing “helpers” for your plan, call us at 217-726-9200 and ask for a copy of our paper newsletter on choosing helpers. We’ll be more than happy to mail you a copy. You can get immediate access to this great resource here.

Download our resource on choosing good helpers HERE.

5 Problems Caused by VA Financial Planners

There are financial planners out there who hold themselves as VA planners offering “free” VA benefit advice, but their “free” advice often comes with a hidden price.

Non-attorney Planning Tactics Can Backfire

David and Chris were in Atlanta a few months ago at the Academy of VA Pension Planners. It’s one of many professional organizations that David belongs to in order to make sure the firm serves our clients better than anyone else. The AVAPP solely focuses on helping Veterans, and their families, get the benefits they earned in service to their country.

Did you know that only 28% of Veterans who qualify use their benefits? And as one of the only law firms in Central Illinois to be accredited by the VA, we want to make sure that everyone who has served our country gets to age with dignity and receive the best care possible.

There are some financial planners who hold themselves out as VA planners offering “free” VA benefit advice. Some are very knowledgeable, but there are some problems with the “free” advice that you need to watch out for.

5 Tactics that Non-attorney VA Planners Use

1. Transferring the house to the kids

Maximizing VA benefits sometimes means rearranging assets. One mistake we have seen is transferring a house to the children. While this will help work for VA benefits (allowing the house to be sold without messing up benefits), there are problems with this strategy. One problem is when the house is later sold, the kids will pay capital gains taxes that could have been avoided. By putting the house in a Veterans Asset Protection Trust, we could get the VA benefits but also avoid the capital gains tax later.

2. IRAs and taxes

Because the VA has asset limits, sometimes IRA accounts must be moved to qualify for benefits. Without proper tax planning, some families incur a huge tax bill that could have been avoided. Instead, working with an experienced attorney can help you consider all the planning options and the tax impact.

3. Annuities with long surrender charges

Often, the “free” VA advice comes with a recommendation to tie up assets in an annuity with long surrender periods. Is anything really “free” in this world? Unfortunately, some families do not realize that the VA financial planner they are relying on is ultimately trying to sell them costly and expensive annuities that tie up their assets far into the future. (This is how the financial planner makes his living.) Instead, a Veterans Asset Protection Trust can help you protect and arrange assets, while allowing your family free access to the investments held in the trust. You need to consider all of the legal and financial tools to see which is best. Unfortunately, non-attorneys often ignore legal tools, such as trusts, even though they may be the best option to help qualify for benefits.

4. Transferring assets to children

Some non-attorney planners transfer assets to the kids so the client can get VA benefits. So, what is the problem with that? If the client needs more care down the road, the funds may have already been spent by the kids. Plus, the gift could keep them from qualifying for Medicaid. (And 70% of nursing home residents use Medicaid to pay for their care.) Transfers of assets must consider both the current goal (VA benefits) and future needs (such as Medicaid benefits to pay for nursing care). By working with an attorney experienced in both VA and Medicaid planning, you can have a flexible plan that considers future health needs.

5. Messing up wishes

Another strategy that non-attorney planners use that can backfire is to transfer the parent’s money to one child in order to qualify for VA benefits. However, that strategy then changes the entire estate plan because one child legally ends up with all the money (unless they voluntarily share it with their siblings, and sadly, we’re experienced enough to know this happens much less often than you think). Instead, once again, the Veterans Asset Protection Trust is a great tool to preserve your wishes after death, but still help you qualify for VA benefits now.

Most of these issues (and more) are discussed in our Elder Law Packet, on pages 7-9: 12 Reasons Not to Give Your Property to Your Kids Now.

To request your free Elder Law Packet, call 217-726-9200. And, as always, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to give our office a call. We will be more than happy to talk with you.

3 Things to Do Before You Hit 70

Decision making gets harder as we age. Here are 3 crucial decisions you need to address before you turn 70.

Researchers say that decision making gets harder as we age, even if we don’t have dementia. What does this mean for you? There are many important decisions regarding your health, well-being, family and finances that can be made sooner rather than later. Many people put planning off because it’s unpleasant to think about. I can assure you, it’s much more unpleasant to be the family members on the other end of a stroke, long illness or death where the person did not plan ahead.

Here are the three things you need to take care of by the time you turn 70:

1. Incapacity planning.

What would happen if you had a stroke and were unable to make decisions for yourself any longer? You may think that your family would just decide for you, but it’s not that simple. With proper planning, extra suffering and fighting amongst your family can be avoided.

2. Estate planning.

What can we say about this that we haven’t already? Wills and trusts are basic estate planning tools that a majority of people NEED to have. Proper drafting of these documents saves time, money and heartache.

3. Long-term care planning.

Most nursing homes in Central Illinois will cost at least $60,000 per year. It’s important to take action ahead of time to plan and protect yourself from having to go broke in order to pay for nursing home care.

I know it can seem impractical to plan for things that may never happen, but statistics tell us that everyone who ages should be prepared for cognitive impairment of some kind. Statistics also tell us that 70% of Americans over 70 will need some sort of long-term care. The longer you wait, the less prepared you will be to face the reality of aging in America – and that will cost you time and money. It will also cost your family a lot of heartache.

If you’d like to read more on this topic, check out this article from MarketWatch, “The biggest retirement risk no one talks about” or the National Institutes of Health study entitled, “The ability to decide advantageously declines prematurely in some normal older persons”. This study showed decision-making impairment in aging adults with otherwise normal cognitive functioning. According to NIH researchers, “Our finding has important societal and public policy implications (e.g. choosing medical care, allocating personal wealth), and may also help explain why many older individuals are targeted by and susceptible to fraudulent advertising.”

As always, if you have any questions or just need help knowing where to start, our Client Coordinator, Tarina Burgess will be more than happy to talk with you via phone at 217-726-9200.

myths about retirement

3 Myths About Retirement That’ll Cost You Money

Many people plan for retirement, but there are expensive surprises that can crop up around healthcare and derail your plans. Read on for 3 surprises about retirement that can cost you lots of money.

3 Myths About Retirement That Will Cost You Money

1. You’ll retire at 70. 22% of workers say they’ll wait until 70 to retire, but only 9% of retirees actually retired at that age according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Think about your friends and family. At what age did they retire? This is probably a more accurate picture of what the reality will be for you.

2. It’ll be all fun and games. I was recently talking with one of our staff who has a lot of experience in long-term care facilities. She said something very poignant, “Everybody plans and thinks about retirement, but you can’t just plan for retirement. You have to plan for your health.” There will come a time (generally after the age of 75) where the traveling will wind down and your health issues will increase. Will you be ready for that? You can find a great clearing house of information on this topic at the University of Minnesota Extension site, in addition to the information on our own website under Costs of Aging.

3. Medicare covers everything. Many people assume that once they are 65 Medicare will take care of all their health needs. Generally, Medicare will only cover 48% of costs, and Medicare DOES NOT cover long-term nursing care. That leaves a lot of expensive medical care and deductibles to be paid for out of your own pocket. Read more about Medicare and Medicaid here.

Life Care Planning Can Address These Issues

Life Care Planning can help address several of these myths, making you better prepared to deal with the reality of retirement.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What is Life Care Planning?”

Life Care Planning is a fairly new concept in the estate planning field that came about because people are living a lot longer these days. Estate planning attorneys realized that planning didn’t just need to be “death planning” anymore, that there is a lot that can be done within the law to make the last decades of life a little easier and less stressful.

Life Care Planning can help you and/or your loved ones get the best possible care during their last decade of life and find the best way to pay for it. Good, holistic planning also looks ahead to the various stages that your family may go through during the aging process. Each stage has its own unique goals, pitfalls, concerns, and challenges. Some families may skip certain stages; others may move forward and then go back to a prior stage as healthcare improves or declines.

No matter what your journey holds, your planning should start now by determining where you (or your loved ones) are in the planning stages, while also looking to where they might be in the coming months or years.

Here are the 6 stages of Life Care Planning.

Which stage are you or your parents in right now?

Stage #1: Healthy, but let’s look ahead for the maximum benefit.

The situation: More than 5 years until care will be needed. (This is where Life Care Planning can do the most good.)

The person is still living at home, drives, travels, handles finances, volunteers, maybe even works part-time. Hopefully it will be 10-15 years or more until care is needed.

Actions: Update the estate plan, will, and powers of attorney. Review asset titling and beneficiary designations. Consider a “nest egg trust” for future asset protection.  Also, consider a revocable living trust.

Stage #2: Not as young as I used to be.

The situation: May need care or assistance within the next 5 years.

The person continues to drive, shop, and pay bills. But he or she is starting to lean on the family more for help or decisions. Increased health issues may even mean time in the hospital.

Actions: Update the estate plan, will, and powers of attorney. Consider a “nest egg trust” for future asset protection. However, beware of care needs coming more quickly than expected, which will change the legal and financial options.

Stage #3: Needing more and more help.

The situation: Needs help with meals and housework.

The senior’s memory is not what it used to be. You notice increased reliance on the family at home, or the person may be in an independent living facility with their own apartment and meals provided. The person may not drive or drives only during the day or on short trips.

Actions: Plan for looming care needs. May qualify for Veterans benefits now or, if not now, may qualify soon. Important to plan ahead for possible Medicaid benefits later.

Stage #4: Declining, but still at home.

The situation: Needs medical care at their own home or may be living with family.

The elderly person needs substantial assistance at home. They no longer drive. They need daily assistance that may include dressing, getting up, eating, using the bathroom, bathing. May need help during the day or maybe 24 hours a day. Leans on family for most, or all, legal or financial decisions.

Actions: Plan for looming care needs. Make sure finances are managed well, bills are paid on time, and help them avoid being taking advantage of by others financially. If the person is a veteran, they will probably qualify for Veterans benefits with proper planning. It’s important to plan ahead for possible Medicaid benefits later.

Stage #5: Declining and in assisted living.

The situation: The person has become too much for the family to take care of, and is beyond the help available at home. They may be in and out of the hospital at this point. The family hopes assisted living will work long term, but there may be concerns that the person will be in declining health and will require an even higher level of care sooner than expected.

Actions: Review Veterans benefit options. Consider a financial plan, whether income will cover the monthly expenses, and how long assets will last. Plan ahead for possible nursing home and Medicaid qualification.

Stage #6: In crisis, either in the hospital or nursing home.

The situation: The person is in the hospital, rehab, or a nursing home. It is expected they will not be able to return home or to an assisted living facility. The next option is a skilled nursing facility.

Actions: Need immediate planning help to maximize Veterans or Medicaid benefits and protect assets. It is rarely “too late” to do anything.

Planning for retirement can be fun if you only think of the ideal situation. But reality may prove otherwise when it comes to unexpected hospitalizations or illnesses. However, by planning for reality and the challenges of retirement, you can make sure that you can still accomplish your goals, whether they be maintaining independence, passing property down to your children or preserving assets for charitable giving. If you’d like to learn more about Life Care Planning, we encourage you to attend one of our upcoming workshops: How to Protect Your House and Life Savings from the Nursing HomeClick here to see upcoming dates.