First, you’re probably wondering, “What is Life Care Planning?” Life Care Planning is a 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 decade of life a little easier and less stressful.
Life Care Planning helps your loved one get the best possible care during their last decade of life and finds 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 one is in the planning stages, and where they might be in the coming months or years.
Stage #1: Healthy, but let’s look ahead for the maximum benefit.
The situation: More than 5 years until care will be needed.
The senior 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 older 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.
Stage #4: Declining: still at home or in assisted living.
The situation: The person has become too much for the family to take care of. They need medical care at their own home, may be living with family, or is beyond the help available at home and recently moved to assisted living. They may be in and out of the hospital at this point.
The elderly person needs substantial assistance. 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 taken advantage of by others financially. If the person is a veteran, they will probably qualify for Veterans benefits with proper planning. Consider a financial plan and look at whether income will cover monthly expenses, and how long assets will last. Plan ahead for possible Medicaid benefits later.
Stage #5: 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.