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Just today, I received a phone call from a concerned daughter about her father’s long-term care needs. He is currently receiving care in a nursing home. They are hopeful that he will be able to return home soon, but it is obvious that he is going to need continuing long term care. The daughter told me that her father had been vigilant about keeping his legal documents current including his Will and his durable power of attorney. The daughter told me that her father is now concerned that he should have acted sooner to protect his assets and plan for his long term care.

I received another call today from an eighty year old man who wanted me to review his will that was done a decade ago. I told him that I would be happy to do so, but that we should also be considering long term care planning: he did not have sufficient assets to privately pay for his care out of his income. He was adamant that he only wanted to discuss estate planning documents.

My mission is to encourage the elders in our community and their families to widen their scope of concern about legal planning. Planning for death is easy. Planning for long life and chronic illness is much more challenging, and in my estimation, more important.

Public benefit programs, such as Medicaid and VA can help pay for the cost of care, however, these programs have strict financial eligibility requirements. Medicaid has a “look-back” period which results in an ineligibility period if assets are transferred during this period. These public benefits can usually be obtained for people who are at risk of a financial crisis if long term care needs arise. However, the best results are possible when long term care planning is undertaken prior to the health care crisis.

A plan can be devised that restructures assets to protect them from long term care costs, while accelerating eligibility for public benefits. We are certainly able to help people in crisis, but planning before the crisis is certainly more beneficial.