Do I need an estate plan now?
If you’re healthy, that’s the best time to plan to preserve your assets, make life easier for your family, and avoid becoming impoverished due to devastating health care costs in retirement. Getting your “ducks in a row” could be one of the best things you do for your spouse, for your children..and for yourself.
Your elder law estate planning goes beyond having a traditional will, living trust and routine powers of attorney. Too often people plan their estate to answer the question of… “What if I die?” I’ve learned though that the question that really keeps people up at night, gives them some acid reflux and makes it hard to go back to sleep is the question of… “What if I don’t die? What if I live a long life then become ill and need care? How will I get that care, and will I run out of money and become impoverished? ”
Here are some suggestions for your elder law estate planning.
Planning for incapacity
What if you (or your spouse) is healthy one day and has a stroke the next? Or you have an accident or some other disabling injury or disease that leaves you alive but mentally incapacitated. Or perhaps you don’t face a sudden event, but Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s or some other disabling disease robs you or or your spouse of the ability to make decisions? That’s where having the right powers of attorney can make the difference between being able to navigate through the health care and financial matters while preserving family harmony, or having a mess. You’ll want to have powers of attorney for both health care and financial matters. Make sure that you get the right power of attorney; these are not just forms and you need to talk with an experienced elder law attorney who can make certain someone (your spouse, child or other trusted agent) can act for you if you can’t act yourself.
Planning for inheritance
This answers the question of what happens if you die. It really deals with how property transfers from one person to another after death. There are two types of inheritance plans: will-based and trust-based. Which is right for you? It depends. Don’t listen to a lawyer who insists that everyone needs a living trust; not everyone does. A trust-based plan can speed administration and avoid court costs, and keep a person’s affairs more confidential. You’ll find lots of information on this site to help you have a conversation with your elder and estate planning attorney about which type of plan would be right for you.
Planning for health care
Planning for health care is often a combination of legal and financial strategies. There are particular types of irrevocable trusts that can speed eligibility for government assistance such as Veterans Aid and Attendance and nursing home Medicaid. Financial strategies will depend more upon being healthy enough to obtain insurance contracts that will leverage a portion of your investments or IRA, to pay for health care costs of they arise but leave a tidy inheritance to your family if you never need long-term care. You can discuss these options with your lawyer as well, to quarterback this strategy.