One thing is certain, the right time to plan is not when the elder law attorney thinks it’s a good time to make a sale of his services! At NJELC at Goldberg Law Group, we are asked this question often and I make a point of answering as if I were contemplating planning for myself or my immediate family.
Moreover, I firmly believe that everyone should have at least a basic estate plan which covers some long term care planning such as Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives.
Unfortunately, most families approach our practice due to a clarifying event, whether that be the loss of a loved one after a long bout of illness, a diagnosis of chronic disease, old age, or a recent hospital/rehab visit. Below, I define some triggering moments to plan. Please keep in mind that there are personal factors at play as well, such as accumulated wealth (or lack thereof), family dynamics, and past experiences.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic, eventually debilitating condition, then planning with an elder care attorney should be one of your priorities. Effective planning occurs when the client is capable of understanding the basic concepts of the plan and has enough time to protect assets if that is one of the goals.
Hospitalization and Rehab
If one has been hospitalized due to generalized age-related or chronic illness related weakness or has become a fall risk then planning is a must. This is usually the result of underlying conditions that have existed for some time but was either denied or treated by home care. This usually requires pre-crisis or crisis planning.
One or Both Spouses Entering Long Term Care
Many people assume that upon entering an assisted living facility or nursing home it is too late to protect assets or plan. This is wrong. There is plenty an experienced elder law attorney can do at this stage. If both spouses are alive, we have multiple strategies available to save the family significant resources.
This is often hard to pinpoint. Some individuals walk into our office as healthy (still driving) ninety-four-year-olds, while others are wheeled in as weak and helpless seventy-five-year-olds. My general advice is that if a mid-seventies individual (who is not often considered “old”) has a desire to protect assets and has a trustworthy family they should plan.
Denial of Long Term Care Insurance
This is obviously a red flag that one has the characteristics of someone who may need long term care at some point in her lifetime. Since the individual is concerned and educated enough to pursue LTCI, now is the time for them to plan for the long term care insurance of last resort, Medicaid.
Hesitant to Pay for LTCI
Due to the high cost of insurance and the prospect of future rate increases, many individuals forego this option. While a good LTCI policy provides one with peace of mind and flexibility, if he or she is unwilling to pay for insurance then an elder law attorney can help provide peace of mind and asset protection.
Oftentimes long term care planning is not only about the individual client. When the client has a disabled child who will need assets and care for the rest of her life, we must be very sensitive to that fact and plan not only for the client but for her assets after death.
To recap, there are many reasons one should seek elder law advice as one ages. A compassionate and experienced elder law attorney will make certain that the plan is crafted specifically for your circumstances.