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How Do I Talk to My Parents About Estate Planning?

Planning For An Aging Parent In North Carolina

Planning for one’s own potential long-term care needs is something few of us do, and typically only when it comes time that either mom or dad can’t live by themselves do we then try and figure out how to handle that dilemma. While there may be no easy choices, it is far better to be proactive and ahead of the curve than try and play catch up after the fact.

Communication is the Key
Since this issue impacts all members of the family across generations, everyone has a strong interest in addressing the specifics. Who initiates the discussion is far less important than the fact it becomes a topic of discussion. A couple of good questions to address are:

Have your parents made any long range plans?

Are there financial resources available from your parents? How about from you or your siblings?
Is staying in their home an option with either daily or live-in care?
Can your home accommodate one or both of your parents if necessary?
These are just some of the questions that must be answered, and as indicated, the sooner the better. A threshold issue is understanding the finances involved in elder care.

The Numbers
Since 2004, the Genworth Cost of Care Survey has studied long term planning costs. The most current data for monthly costs of various care options:

Home health care – around $4000
Adult day care – around $1500
Assisted living facility – between $3000 – $4000
Nursing home care – between $7000 – $8000

The Options
Insurance – It can truly be said of insurance that it is something you need to have but hope to never have to use. For long term care insurance, the earlier a policy is taken out and the healthier the applicant is, the lower the costs. One option to consider is if mom and dad cannot afford the premiums, perhaps the kids can. This is certainly a less expensive option than the monthly out-of-pocket costs as indicated above. It is important to note that long-term care insurance often does not pay the full cost of nursing home care or has other limitations.
Public programs – Unfortunately, Medicare does not offer long term care as part of its program. For those with very limited income and few assets, Medicaid may be an option. For those who have honorably served our country, the Veteran’s Administration has certain benefits available.
The Family – Unfortunately, for too many people, the burden of long term care falls on the family. It’s not so much the individuals offering the care don’t want to help, more often it’s the high cost borne by the caregiver. Caregivers often need to reduce their own hours of work or stop altogether, which can have a long range negative impact on their own retirement security.
An estate planning attorney can assist you not only in financial matters involving the disposition of your estate after you pass, but also in establishing and maintaining a high quality of life in your sunset years.

Dana Wilson
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