What have you done about planning for yourself or your spouse down the road? Have you made it easy for others to care for you? Do you have the proper documents in place? Do you have long term care insurance? Is it adequate?
If you have long term care insurance, check it out and make sure that the coverage is adequate for you. Some policies may only cover a portion of what you’ll need, but check the monthly coverage amount and the lifetime benefit amount, and then add in your other income from Social Security or pensions to see if you think it will be enough. The cost of most nursing homes in our area is about $8,500 to $10,000 per month. If your long term care insurance will cover in-home care, then it may permit you to remain in your home much longer without moving to a facility that provides a higher level of care. Think about the total cost.
If you have assets that can be used to provide for your care, do you have the proper documents in place so that your spouse or children can access those assets? Do you have a durable power of attorney that is specific to the needs of elder law planning? Do you have a gifting plan in place, or have you given your agent gifting powers?
One of your goals should be to have the right documents in place so that others can care for you without going to court to establish a conservatorship over you or your assets. A conservatorship is something that you generally want to avoid. The emotional and financial costs of a conservatorship are high, but they can be avoided through proper planning.
What about Medi-Cal Planning? Nobody wants to go to a nursing home, but sometimes that’s the best — or only — option for someone. Statistics show that if you reach the age of 65 years, there’s a 50% chance that you’ll spend some time in a nursing home. And, the average stay for people who go to the nursing home is two and a half years. That’s 30 months.
A major problem faced by elder law attorneys who practice Medi-Cal planning is simply the lack of knowledge by the public. Most people don’t know that advance planning and crisis planning are available, and that the Medi-Cal laws specifically allow for this. A classic example of this is a woman I met at a wedding a few years ago. When I told her that I was an elder law attorney, she leaned forward and told me that they had spent over $500,000 of her mother’s money on nursing home care before anyone told them to go see an elder law attorney. … Shocking? It happens all the time. … But it doesn’t need to be that way.
Is there someone in your family who is struggling with dementia? Line things up in advance. Don’t wait.
I have a client whose father has had Parkinson’s disease for years, but he was still managing his own affairs okay so nobody sat down with the father to plan ahead. When the father suddenly slid into severe dementia, he couldn’t tell his son where his safe was hidden, why he had taken out a reverse mortgage that now had a high balance, or where all the money had gone. Was the father a victim of elder financial abuse? We don’t know.
The comment I often hear is, “I wish we would have started this two or three years ago.” Don’t let that happen to you. Plan ahead.
Jim Ward helps couples and individuals throughout the bay area with medi-cal planning. Call Jim today for a free consultation – 1-800-JIM-WARD.