As Americans continue to enjoy longer life expectancies, having the right elder care plan in place has become a necessity rather than a luxury. The right planning for your golden years should take into account your individual circumstances, needs and long-term goals. By making these difficult decisions today, you can ease the burden your children and other loved ones would have to face if left to make these decisions for you.
There are several key components of your elder care plan that you should consider.
A catastrophic accident, sudden illness or protracted fight with a long-term disease can result in incapacitation. If you become unable to communicate your wishes regarding your care, do your family members know what you want?
Discussing the types of life-saving and life-extending treatment you would want in these situations with your loved ones should be the first step, not be the last one. It is important that you have your wishes written down in a living will and advanced health care directive so there can be no disagreement among your loved ones concerning your true wishes.
In your advanced health care directive, you can select a health care agent responsible for making health care treatment decisions on your behalf, including the use of artificial ventilation, nutrition and other procedures meant to extend your life. You also can designate under which conditions you would not want life-prolonging procedures used.
Another important component of incapacitation planning is designating an individual whom you trust to handle your financial matters, which may include running your small business, trading and selling stocks or just handling your day-to-day financial matters while you are unable to. In a financial durable power of attorney, you can decide how much control you want to give your designated agent while you are incapacitated, and you can set the terms for the termination of the agent’s authority.
Guardian ships and Conservator ships
Guardian ships allow those with young children or incapacitated dependents to designate who would care for them should you die or become incapacitated. By selecting a guardian, you can prevent the court from making that decision for you.
In conjunction with selecting an appropriate guardian, you also may want to set up a trust for the benefit of your children to help pay for their care. Since the law prohibits minors from holding title to property, you also can have any property you own that would pass to your children titled in the trust.
A conservator is a person who is given control over the assets of a minor child or an incapacitated adult. If you nominate a conservator, you choose the person you would want to control your assets, rather than allowing the court to do so.
There may, however, be some circumstances in which it will be best to have a court-appointed guardian or court-supervised conservator. An elder care planning attorney can discuss the differences between these options and help you determine which one will best meet your needs.
While many may be aware that federal Medicaid benefits will pay for nursing home care, they may be unaware of how difficult it can be to get these important benefits. To qualify for Medicaid assistance, you cannot have more than a certain dollar amount in “countable assets,” which includes income from pensions, retirement savings and Social Security. If you receive too much, you either have to pay for expensive nursing care out-of-pocket or spend down your assets until you qualify for the Medicaid benefit.
It is important to begin Medicaid planning sooner rather than later. Under federal and state law, states can look back five years to determine if you have moved assets from your name to anothers in order to qualify for Medicaid. Thus, it is critical that Medicaid planning occur well in advance of your actual need for nursing home care.
Those who served our country in the military are entitled to certain federal benefits, which may include health care at one of the 150 plus VA medical centers nationwide. It is a common misconception that service members must have been injured during their time of service in order to be eligible for VA benefits.
Service members who are over age 65 and who served during wartime may be eligible for an important benefit called VA Aid and Attendance. This benefit pays eligible service members and their families up to $1,949 per month and provides them with certain health care benefits, including free medications and medical equipment. VA Aid and Attendance also may help pay for some of the necessary expenses associated with assisted living, including cooking and cleaning and transportation costs.
Other VA benefits also may be available to qualified veterans, including counseling, disability benefits for service-connected injuries, comprehensive health care coverage, death pension, burial benefits and survivor’s benefits. The availability of these benefits depends in part on the service member’s age, whether or not the service member served during wartime and the service member’s currently monthly income, among other factors. Those who are eligible for these important benefits should make a claim for them as soon as possible, as the application process can be time-consuming.
Start Building Your Plan Today
For help developing a customized elder care plan, contact a knowledgeable elder law attorney today. A lawyer with experience helping clients create thoughtful, comprehensive life care plans can answer your questions and help you plan for your golden years.