San Jose Elder Law: Does your family really know what you want?

The Importance of Planning Early

You may be undecided about what treatment you want when you’re ill or how to transfer your estate when you pass away. . . and your family may even want something different than what you want. So maybe you should put your wishes in writing in a legally valid document to let everyone know.

All too often, when it comes to estate planning issues, spouses disagree with each other and the adult children disagree with their parents. Putting off the decision doesn’t make it easier, and it rarely gets solved by waiting. Issues such as whether you want burial or cremation, or whether you want to use a living will, or who will make your health care decisions, are all issues that need to be addressed. If you have minor children, do you have a valid will that appoints guardians for them if the need arises?

When people are faced with making the formal decision of how to split their remaining assets among their family members, many people freeze up. They may make a decision, but then not be willing to sign it until a few weeks have passed and they’ve reached the point where they know that they simply have to bite the bullet and get it done.

The California legislature has prepared a plan for each of us in case we don’t have a valid plan of our own. If you want to make your own decisions, however, you need to have your own set of documents prepared according to your own wishes. If you don’t act, the rules of the State of California will govern.

Most people take time to plan for a dinner party or their vacation, but they put off estate planning or long term care planning. Most people prefer to not think about how they will be taken care of as they advance in age, and they simply think that “it will all work out.” When it comes to long term care planning, including finding the appropriate care and figuring out how to pay for it, those who fail to plan are clearly the ones who risk losing the most.

As an estate planning and elder law attorney, I frequently see people who have waited too long to do their planning. It’s frustrating for their families, and frustrating for me as well when I know that something could have been done to better protect the person and the family if someone had only taken the appropriate action a bit sooner.

Nobody ever plans to have a stroke or develop dementia, but it happens unexpectedly to many of us. You need to plan for that possibility.

Insurance for long term care is an ever-changing area. Many companies that offered great policies before are no longer offering long term care insurance, and new companies are offering more conservative plans. If you’re at an age where long term care insurance is still affordable for you, you should look into it. If it isn’t an option for you, then you should meet with an elder law attorney to understand other options that you may have. Waiting is rarely a good option.

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (known as DRA 2005) went into effect at the beginning of 2006. One of the reasons for the act was to make it more difficult for seniors to receive government assistance for care in a skilled nursing facility or supplemental care at home.

Every state except California has already adopted the new rules.

California still has a lot of elder law planning flexibility today, but that will change soon. Once California adopts those rules, people who haven’t planned in advance will pay and even greater price for waiting.

Proper planning, whether for estate planning, elder considerations, or Medi-Cal planning, can frequently provide for a better life for the senior, their spouse, and their heirs. It isn’t something to take lightly or put off with the idea that “things will work out” on their own.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”

— Alan Lakein, Time Management Expert

Even if you already did some planning several years ago, maybe it’s time to pull out those old documents, dust them off, and see if they still reflect your wishes.

Contact us today to learn about how we can help you.