Understanding what goes into long-term care planning will help you forge the right plan and choose the best estate planning attorney for your needs.
Deciding to take legal steps to plan for the future is the right choice as you get older.
You need to make sure your family is protected, and that you will get the quality of long-term care you deserve.
According to LongTermCare.gov:
- Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years
- Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years)
- One-third of today’s 65 year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years
Unfortunately, many people don’t fully understand what goes into long-term care planning or appreciate the importance of getting the right legal guidance.
The good news is that there’s a dedicated branch of the legal field that focuses specifically on elder law and estate planning, making it easier for you to find a knowledgeable legal partner to help you plan for your future long-term care needs.
When searching for a long-term care planning attorney, is usually a good idea to talk to a few of these elder law specialists to learn more about the process and find out which ones might be a good fit for your needs.
Because every family’s situation is different, asking a few targeted questions will help you understand your options and choose the right estate planning law firm.
Here are some questions to ask any long-term care planning attorney you may be considering.
Can My Regular Attorney Handle Some Of My Long-Term Care Planning Needs?
This is a question a lot of people have, since they wonder if it might be more convenient or cost-effective. For most people, it turns out to be neither easier nor cheaper, and many attorneys will tell you themselves that it would be better to find someone experienced in this area of law.
While your lawyer may be able to prepare some basic estate planning documents like a last will or advance healthcare directive, this is usually only a good idea in the very simplest of situations.
Comprehensive planning for long-term care is best handled by an experienced elder law attorney or estate planning specialist.
Why Do I Need An Estate Planning Attorney To Help Plan For Long-Term Care?
A lawyer who specializes in estate planning can help families protect their assets from being depleted due to the need for end-of-life care.
A good long-term care estate planning attorney can also help ensure you get the level of care you want and keep your family from having to worry about paying out of pocket for the quality care you deserve.
Another thing an estate planning attorney will do is assign different powers of attorney for a range of situations where you cannot make your own decisions.
Furthermore, an established relationship with an experienced elder law attorney can help shield you from situations of abuse or exploitation later in life, as well.
You do not need to be particularly well-off to require the specialized services of a long-term care planning attorney, either. A skilled estate planning firm can help you qualify for Medicaid or other government benefits at various income levels.
What Does Long-Term Care Planning Involve?
Long-term care planning is a legal subspecialty that involves assessing your assets, discussing your care goals and crafting a plan that fits both.
A good long-term care planning attorney will be able to figure out how to protect your assets through instruments like trusts and Medicaid planning and help you qualify for government programs like Veterans Aid that you might be eligible for.
Your long-term care attorney can also help you determine how long-term care insurance or a life insurance plan might help you achieve your goals as part of a well-considered estate plan.
What Kinds Of Long-Term Care Planning Measures Do I Need?
People at different stages of life may take different long-term care and estate planning measures, changing focus as circumstances change and they age.
Many middle aged people – especially those with children – begin with a framework that includes a will, an advanced healthcare directive and a medical power of attorney.
Older people may want to actively plan for incapacitation and long-term care, taking steps like setting up trusts to shelter assets, establishing guardianships and conservatorships and assigning financial powers of attorney.
However, planning at any age can get much more complicated if there are lots of assets at stake, or if there are family members with special needs or serious health concerns.
That is why experts recommend talking to an estate planning attorney even if you are relatively young or think your long-term estate planning needs are simple.
A good estate planning lawyer can lay out all your options and prepare your estate plan at any life stage. They can also help you tailor and adapt your plan as you get older and your family and financial situation evolves.
Should I Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?
Assessing whether to buy long-term care insurance and figuring out which kind of coverage to buy can be difficult, especially if you are not an expert.
Many people buy long-term insurance without being fully aware of government benefits like Medicaid or Veterans Aid that may be available to help them pay for long-term care.
Still others underestimate the likelihood of needing long-term care coverage, erroneously thinking Medicare or other insurance will cover it.
If you are unsure about whether to buy long-term care insurance, you may want to talk to an estate planning attorney first to learn about other ways you may be able to pay for care.
An attorney can help you assess all your options and make the best decision for your particular situation.
Are There Ways To Qualify For Government Benefits Such As Medicaid To Cover My Long-Term Care Costs?
There are many ways to qualify for government benefits such as Medicaid for long-term care, even if your assets or income exceed the threshold.
Veterans and their spouses may also qualify for Veterans Aid benefits to pay for nursing home care, in-home care or care in an assisted living facility.
Medicaid and benefits planning is an important part of the long-term care planning puzzle, and the estate planning attorney you choose should have lots of expertise in this area.
Your estate planning attorney can tell you what you may eligible for, help you navigate the system and possibly increase your chances of qualifying for benefits, even if you have been denied in the past.
Does Medicaid Cover Everything? What Should I Expect It To Cover For Me?
Medicaid does not always cover everything, but it can pay a substantial amount toward your long-term care costs – if you qualify.
Medicaid covers nursing home care and some in-home care services, but it does not usually pay for independent or assisted living facilities.
There may also be additional uncovered expenses for things like a private room, phone service, television and other comforts in a long-term care facility. You will need to plan for these sorts of expenses when crafting your estate plan.
You may also be expected to contribute part of your income toward your long-term care expenses, depending on your financial situation.
Medicaid may also later try to recoup from your estate whatever it has paid toward your long-term care expenses. This is known as Medicaid Estate Recovery, and failing to shield your assets from it can have a significant impact on how much you are able to leave your heirs.
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to navigating Medicaid benefits, but an expert estate planning attorney can give you a good idea what to expect. They can also help you plan with these expected benefits in mind, protect what’s yours and ensure you get the level of care you deserve.
How Can I Preserve Assets For My Family?
The best way to preserve assets for your family is to talk to an estate planning attorney about steps you can take to minimize long-term care expenses and taxes.
Preserving assets for your family should be a central concern for your estate planning lawyer, right behind making sure all your needs are met when you need long-term care.
A skilled estate planning attorney may be able use instruments like revocable or irrevocable trusts, or set up a Qualified Income Trust to legally protect your assets and preserve them for your family.
Asset protection is the goal of Medicaid planning, as well, and your attorney should take steps to help you qualify for Medicaid, if you may be eligible.
Your long-term planning attorney might also employ strategies like setting up a special needs trust to provide for special needs family members while protecting their government benefits.
There are many asset preservation strategies that can be used as part of your long-term care plan, so be sure to discuss this topic thoroughly with any attorney you are considering.
How Much Do You Charge For Long-Term Care Planning?
According to a recent Caring.com survey, one of the main reasons people cited for putting off estate planning is that they are uncertain about how much it will cost them.
You should not be afraid to ask a prospective lawyer how much they bill for their services, or for an estimate on how much your estate plan will run.
Some estate planning law firms will charge a flat fee for specific legal services or estate planning packages.
Other firms will charge by the hour, but they should be able to roughly estimate what the total for someone in your situation will be.
You should always choose the most capable, experienced firm whose skill set fits your needs, but it’s a good idea to consider factors like cost and how easy they are to communicate with, as well.
Have Questions About Long-Term Care Planning?
Speights Law has the answers you need. Attorneys Archie and Amanda Speights have specialized legal training from the respected Elder Law College and are experts in long-term care estate planning.
We can help sort out all your options and come up with a plan that works for you and your family. Call us today at (770) 479-1500 to set up a consultation.
Archie Speights is a co-founder and lead criminal law attorney of Speights Law in Cherokee County. He is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who handles an assortment of major felony cases, including murder, sex crimes, aggravated assault, and drug crimes in the state of Georgia. To contact Archie, please visit our contact page.