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3 tips to help you take the first steps in planning for their long-term care

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

For some couples, the woman is THE decision maker, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  For example, in nearly 8 out of 10 cases where married couples purchase a vehicle, it is the woman who makes the final decision.  And because women outlive men by 5.4 years on average, women frequently make decisions that have long lasting effects upon their children, their spouse, and even their parents.

3 tips to help you initiate discussing parents long-term care:

Tip 1: Explain that Elder Law attorneys are not “regular” lawyers

Elder Law attorneys have deliberately selected a career in a specialized area of law to serve elders.  Moreover, The Rules of Professional Conduct require lawyers to act in the best interests of their clients.  The client of an Elder Law attorney is the elder.  Not the children.  The best Elder Law attorneys are equipped to facilitate familial harmony; they place the client’s concerns at the forefront of any discussion, and they orchestrate a plan that can protect a nest egg from the catastrophic expenses of long term care and improve quality of life.  An inheritance is nice – and usually a much larger inheritance is a by-product of the plan devised by an excellent Elder Law attorney – but the first thing I explain to families I meet with is that the inheritance is not the focus.  My client’s quality and dignity of life is priority #1.  

Tip 2: Gather information with your parents, if possible, in a no obligation, zero pressure environment. 

Parents love to do things with their kids, and adult children likewise value the time they have with their aging parents.  One easy way to spend time with your parents while gathering information is to attend a free seminar hosted by a local Elder Law attorney.  Don’t be afraid to research, communicate, and explain important statistics to your parents. 

Tip 3: Explain easy-to-understand statistics. 

Did you know that if you are over age 65: you have a 7.2% chance of having an auto accident every year; a 6.15% chance of needing to file a homeowner’s insurance claim; and a 70% chance of needing long-term care?  Over half of those who need long-term care will require a nursing home. 

Here is the statistic you must be concerned with: only 13% of drivers are uninsured, just 15% of homeowners are uninsured, but a whopping 90% of senior citizens are uninsured and unprotected against long term care needs.   Why is it important to plan for long term care?  Primarily because the expenses of long term care are catastrophic and can wipe out a nest-egg in less than a year.  50% of couples and 70% of singles are impoverished (broke) after one year of entering a nursing home. 

Medicaid is a government program meant for those who plan for it.  I encourage you to attend a free seminar on the subject, as it is shocking that so many smart people do not realize that Medicaid – not Medicare – can be used to pay for long term care. 

One common misconception is, “We don’t need to plan for our long term care yet, we’re only 65.”  Almost half of all long-term care claimants are under age 65 at the time of disability.  Every day that goes by without a plan, the family is risking possible delay or even forfeiture of government benefits that are meant to pay for catastrophic long term care costs. 

Talking to your parents about their long term care options can be understandably difficult, and no other generation has had to simultaneously balance so many familial responsibilities at one time.  But there is a new breed of Estate Planning and Elder Law that takes a family-friendly, solution-based approach making it easier to discuss difficult subjects.

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