Long-term care is often a very overwhelming and scary time of a person’s life. Having specialized in helping families through this tumultuous process for over 15 years, I have learned several things that I pass on to clients on a daily basis. I call them the Five Must-Knows of Long-Term Care Planning, and they are as follows:
- It is never too late.
- Preplanning is always better than crisis planning.
- Long-term care is a team sport.
- You must work with a qualified professional.
- It is stressful, but planning is worth it.
- It Is Never Too Late. The one thing that I cannot stress enough is that, even if a loved one is in a nursing home or is going to need skilled-level care in his or her own home, options are still available. Pennsylvania is a very generous state when it comes to allowing individuals to protect assets for families in crisis, to the tune of 100% for a spouse who is at home or 50% for a single widow or widower family member. We often hear, “Well, we weren’t able to do anything ahead of time and our loved one already needs skilled-level care, so, therefore it’s too late.” It is essential to understand that it is never too late and that you should seek professional advice immediately.
- Preplanning is Always Better. Although it is never too late, preplanning is much less expensive, and also much less stressful. Although things can still be done in crisis, it is a very emotional time for a family, and asset protection can be very expensive. In a perfect world, the planning would be done five years before an individual needs skilled-level care in a nursing home or in his or her own home. I realize that timing is not something that anyone can control, but, certainly, the earlier, the better.
- Long-Term Care Planning is a Team Sport. In our weekly workshops, we stress to our families that we want them to include their team, which often consists of other family members, financial professionals, accountants, and other important key people. This can be a very stressful time and, oftentimes, very technical and important decisions have to be made. I never recommend going alone down this path, as having your family members and your other professionals there with you will provide not only peace of mind but also support and great advice. Therefore, when you start thinking about long-term care planning, always remember it is a team sport, and the better the team, the better the decisions.
- You must work with a qualified professional. Asset protection planning and Medicaid planning are two very technical areas of the law. Most estate planning attorneys do not understand the intricacies of Medicaid and asset protection. I recently received a call from a client who was going to use another elder law attorney and I told him to ask the individual how many asset protection trusts Medicaid files that they did in the past month. I told the client that we did 10 asset protection trusts the month before and had 60 active Medicaid files. When the client called me back, she was laughing because she said that the individual told her that they hadn’t done any of either but that didn’t mean that they were not an elder law attorney. It is very easy to make a major mistake in these areas and causes major tax, financial, and other losses to a family. Be sure to use a firm that has a certified elder law attorney to make sure that the person knows the intricacies of the law.
- It is stressful but planning is worth it. Pre-planning is the best planning because it is done ahead of time without a lot of stress and it is much less expensive. However, even crisis planning is worth it. For a single individual or a widow or widower, if he or she is in a nursing home we can still protect 50% of their assets for a loved one. If there is a spouse, we are able to protect 100% of all assets, and qualify the person for Medicaid so that the state is paying for his or her nursing home stay. Sure, the process of collecting the required information, such as five years of bank and financial statements, and getting through the process is stressful and overwhelming, but the end result is well worth it.
Remember these five tips to protect your family and your assets. If you need further information, please come to one of our workshops or call the office.