Long-term care planning is a comprehensive evaluation of an individual’s legal and financial situation as well as the creation of a plan to address current and future long-term care needs.

Pre-planning for long-term care begins with a review by a lawyer of an individual’s existing estate planning documents, including:

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Deeds and other real estate title documents
  • Accounts and other assets
  • Beneficiary designations on accounts (including retirement accounts, life insurance, and annuities)
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Advanced health care directives, living wills, and similar documents

In reviewing these documents, the lawyer should ask whether and how the documents will work during an individual’s incapacity, rather than what they do after the individual passes away. Often, the traditional estate planning documents must be modified or replaced to accomplish one’s long-term care goals. Some of the common long-term care planning legal documents include:

  • Durable Powers of Attorney for Property Management and Personal Affairs
  • Advance Health Care Directives
  • Irrevocable Asset Protection Trusts
  • Irrevocable Special Needs Trusts (also called Supplemental Needs Trusts)
  • Irrevocable Income Only Trusts
  • Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts
  • Testamentary Special Needs Trusts
  • Gift Deeds with Reserved Life-Estates
  • Personal Lifetime Rights of Occupancy
  • Separate Revocable Living Trusts for the well spouse
  • Wills with Testamentary Special Needs Trusts

 

An elder law attorney will also perform an evaluation of the individual’s potential eligibility for public benefits, such as Medi-Cal (Medicaid outside of California), VA Aid & Attendance, as well as helping their client purchase long-term care insurance.

For most individuals, the goals of long-term care planning include:

  • Naming an agent and providing instructions and authority for the agent to make health and personal care decisions for the individual in the event that he/she becomes incapacitated.
  • Providing authority for someone to manage the property and handle the financial affairs of an individual in the event that he/she becomes incapacitated.
  • Ensuring the individual’s access to qualify for long-term care services, preferably obtaining those services while the individual is still in their home.
  • Reducing the emotional and financial stress on the individual and their family in the event the individual needs long-term care services.
  • Providing for the individual’s access to public benefits and other governmental resources for long-term care services.
  • Preserving and protecting the individual’s assets for their long-term care or for their spouse and children upon the individual’s death.
  • Pre-planning for long-term care is especially important for individuals over the age of 65, as there is about a 70 percent chance that such individuals will require long-term care services before they die. Of course, the older the individual gets, the higher the chance they will require care.

In pre-planning for long-term care, an elder law attorney will help an individual and their family to understand:

  • Long-term care options that are available in the area and what they cost.
  • Public benefits that may be available to pay for the various types of care and the eligibility criteria for such benefits.
  • Likely consequences of failing to plan for long-term care before the individual loses capacity.

As part of long-term care planning, an elder law attorney will also explain the coverage differences between Medicare and Medi-Cal or Medicaid, as well as the appropriate use and limitations of financial products such as long-term care insurance and various annuities that are often sold to elders for the purposes of paying for long-term care, qualifying for VA benefits, and qualifying for Medi-Cal benefits. An experienced attorney can also help individuals who find it painful to raise the subjects of long-term care and dying with their families, or who do not wish to reveal their financial circumstances to their families. Finally, an elder law attorney will bring the peace of mind to individuals and their loved ones that comes from knowing that a plan is in place for their long-term care, should it be needed.

At The Law Offices of Janis A Carney, we specialize in planning for our clients who are concerned about the possibility that they someday may become incapacitated and/or need long-term care. We understand the complexity and anxiety that comes with the responsibility for the care and treatment of elderly or special needs loved ones. We know the problems faced by families caring for parents’ suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, and other disabling diseases and conditions. We strive to provide our clients with helpful information, resources, advice, and superior legal services. Contact us today if you would like to learn more.