One of the essential pieces of our work in analyzing whether the estate planning that is in place is adequate or appropriate to satisfy the long term care needs of the client. Many estate planning documents were created for tax avoidance purposes. Changes in the tax law and the economic downturn make many of these concerns moot. More relevant is that the documents provide sufficient authority to make financial changes that may be necessary in order to utilize government benefits to help pay for care.
We also have in depth discussions with the elder to insure that the care is going to be provided in the way that the elder prefers. The documents should reflect the elder’s wishes.
It is important that estate planning changes be made when the elder has capacity to execute legal documents. Sometimes there is only a narrow window within which to make changes.
Another factor that we consider is the presence of a caregiver spouse. We need to plan for what would happen if that spouse were to predecease the sick spouse. Not only do we need to make sure that there is a decision maker ready to assume immediate control of the situation, we need to make sure that the caregiver spouse’s estate plan and possible financial distribution to the spouse upon death does not interrupt government benefits that may be in place or may need to be set in motion. Taking care of the caregiver’s spouse’s estate plan is complicated by Florida’s elective share law along with the rules related to Medicaid. We have been able to help countless caregiver spouses create appropriate estate plans to leverage the family’s dollars to insure that family wealth is used to augment the governmental benefits.