A client of mine recently said that his parents have a bad case of the “I’m gonna’s.” Many times they talked about protecting their home and assets, but never did anything. They said,
“We’re going to do the planning,” but didn’t.
I saw the look of frustration on my clients’ son’s face. He was facing the terminal illness of his father and Alzheimer’s for his mother. He looked me square in the eye and said, “You have no idea how much I am dreading this.”
Unfortunately, I know his situation all too well. I have over 25 years of practice in the area of elder care. I have seen many families who had the best of intentions, but it never got done.
They say, “I’m gonna do it.”
With the end of the year in sight, many of us are making New Year’s Resolutions. Perhaps you have set some goal to exercise more, spend more time with your family, or watch less TV. However, one resolution you should make and follow through on is to do some legal and financial planning. This is true regardless of your age or health status. Here are some things to consider when planning for the future:
Update your estate plan: You need a durable power of attorney for financial decisions and a power of attorney for healthcare decisions. You should also consider whether you want to sign a living will (meaning you would not want to be kept alive artificially or have your life prolonged by artificial means if you are terminally ill and unconscious with no chance of recovery). An estate plan will also usually include a last will and testament or revocable living trust, detailing how you want your assets to pass at your death. An estate plan may also include designating beneficiaries for your assets.
Consider long-term care insurance: You should become educated about long-term care insurance so you can make an informed decision as to whether or not this is the right thing for you. It should not cost you anything to sit down with a long-term care insurance agent and explore the policies that are out there and what they would cost. The sooner you buy it, the less it will cost. On the other hand, if you wait too long before looking into long-term care insurance, you may no longer be able to qualify.
Discuss long-term care planning with your family: So many families wait until a crisis situation arises to discuss issues of long term care planning. Don’t wait – do it now. Let your family members know what your wishes are (even if they are already spelled out in your estate planning documents) and make sure they know where you keep your important legal and financial documents in case they need to access those in an emergency situation.
Consult with an elder law attorney: Good elder law attorneys who take a holistic approach to meeting their clients’ needs will not only make sure they have the proper legal planning in place, but will also make sure that their clients are referred to the appropriate professionals in order to take care of their insurance, investment, and social service needs. Consulting with an elder law attorney is always a good place to start when planning for your future.