Helena S. Mock, Esq. and Susan Luscomb, Esq.
Long-term care planning is not just about nursing home care. It is about providing optimal quality of life during a lengthy illness or disability, which many seniors can expect to experience. Although estate planning is part of a Long-Term Care Plan, Long-Term Care Planning is more than just estate planning; it is life planning. In the event of serious illness or injury, instead of asking "What happens if I die?" Long-Term Care Planning asks the question "What happens if I don't die?"
If you were ill or disabled, you might need assistance for an extended period prior to death. The earlier you plan, the more you can protect. What's involved? One crucial issue is determining how you will pay for future living expenses and medical care. Insurance is often a component: disability insurance can provide a stream of income in the event you are no longer able to work, and long-term care insurance can pay the costs of nursing home or home health care, thus preserving your assets. Long-Term Care Planning also involves options to allow you to stay in your home for as long as possible. Such options include Veterans' benefits, reverse mortgages, and in-home care.
A Long-Term Care Plan includes, at a minimum, three legal documents: a "senior" property power of attorney, a health care power and living will (advance medical directive, and universal HIPAA authorization. In addition, a revocable living trust can provide great flexibility in managing your assets both during life and at death so that you can avoid guardianship proceedings and probate. Other types of trusts can help protect assets from being consumed by medical and long-term healthcare expenses. "Medicaid triggers" in your documents can allow your agent or trustee to do Medicaid planning so you can qualify for Medicaid benefits while retaining, or passing on, as much of your estate as possible, and special will provisions can significantly protect assets if a non-disabled spouse dies first.
Sound planning requires legal assistance so that the plan may be implemented with minimal anxiety and expense. Illness, injury, and tragedy are often unavoidable. But having a plan in place will allow you to breathe easier knowing that you have done everything reasonably possible to minimize the impact of your illness or disability on you and your family.