The importance of planning ahead for long-term care

The need for long-term care should be considered during the estate planning process.

Recent statistics show that an estimated 60 percent of Americans will need long-term care at some point in their lives. Long-term care is becoming more common as our population ages and life spans lengthen. This is because many people of advanced age require assistance due to either specific medical concerns (i.e., chronic or terminal illnesses that restrict their mobility or affect their mental capacity) or aging-related limitations that prevent them from carrying out activities of daily living like personal grooming, cooking, cleaning and handling financial matters. In fact, the need for long-term care has become so prevalent that November is nationally recognized as “Long-Term Care Awareness Month.”

What many don’t realize is how incredibly expensive long-term care can be. Depending on the level of assistance required, costs can range anywhere from a few dollars a day to tens of thousands of dollars per year. Assuming that government programs like Medicare will fund long-term care can be dangerous, since there are limits on how much Medicare will pay, and some facilities choose not to participate in the Medicare program (so they won’t even accept Medicare as payment).

Medicaid can be an option for some, but there are financial disqualifications for those who have more than a set amount in assets. It may still be possible to qualify for Medicaid or state-level government programs, but your estate must be structured in a particular way. This is where the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney can be invaluable. With careful planning, it is possible to protect your hard-earned assets so that they pass to your loved ones while still preventing jeopardizing your government benefit qualification.

Making it work – exploring options

One option for long-term care planning is to gift assets to your loved ones while you are still alive instead of leaving them to pass after your death. This could lower your asset threshold low enough to qualify for Medicaid and other benefits without short-changing your heirs. A different yet equally effective approach would be to put assets into a trust that provides you with only a limited amount of access and income. This will also ensure that you qualify for benefit assistance that may be necessary to pay for long-term care while still protecting the bulk of your estate for the future.

Regardless of the type, level and length of care you need, the simple fact is that long-term care – particularly that found in nursing homes and residential assisted living facilities – is very expensive. Accepting that you might need long-term care and planning for the future are vital to prevent headaches down the road. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney like Jaci Feldman (of the Woodland Hills, California, Law Office of Yacoba Ann Feldman) will ensure that you are taken care of when you need it most. Contact The Law Offices of Yacoba Ann Feldman.