In this issue, we are offering friendly reminders on how to avoid common planning problems. Here are a few important things to remember about planning for the possible need for long term care.
1. Make sure your estate plans contain the proper “long term care planning tools”.
For most of our clients, this step has already been addressed. If we have created your estate planning documents in the period after 2010, your documents contain the most current planning tools needed. If your documents were prepared earlier and have not been updated by our firm, we typically recommend an amendment so that your “tool kit” can be updated to address the critical law changes in recent years.
We review many estate plans prepared by lawyers and others that address the topics of death and taxes. Our plans also address these topics. However, we review very few plans prepared by others that contain sufficient, if any, language that will allow for effective asset preservation in the event of the need for long term care planning.
Even if your plan is up to date, do you have family members, friends or other loved ones who may have such trusts? If so, you may wish to recommend to them that they have their plans reviewed to see what additional protections they should add to their plan documents. We will be happy to assist them if they are California residents.
2. Don’t delay when planning is needed.
The best time to look into the options that may be available to assist in helping to pay for long term care expenses is when these expenses are about to begin. Unfortunately, we have seen too many occasions when our clients have needlessly spent through most of their assets before contacting us. While we are often able to help them preserve many of their remaining assets, it is generally impossible to recover the funds that were already used to provide care.
3. Get the Right Advice from the Right Professional.
This tip goes along with the one immediately above. The reason many clients don’t contact us until their entire nest egg has been depleted in paying for long term care costs is because they listen to the wrong people or have otherwise been given bad advice.
Our firm regularly assists clients in obtaining benefits under the Medi-Cal program and, when available, from the Veteran’s Administration.
There are many other so-called “experts” who are often not expert at all and/or have ulterior motives. For example, there are annuity salespersons who wrongly advise clients that their annuity products are effective long term care planning tools. In almost all cases, that is untrue. There are services that purport to provide assistance with helping families find a suitable care facility for a loved one which are nothing more than commission-based sales persons who earn their living by directing persons to facilities they have contracted with, regardless of the quality of care provided there.
We also have seen too many clients who have gotten their long term care education from the Internet or from free seminars. The quality of education which is generally available through these sources is typically abysmal. Many of these seminar presenters, who are typically not even attorneys, charge outrageous fees for dubious advice and strategies.
In summary, as we live longer lives, there is a greater chance we will need long term care services at some point before we die. Our firm and the planning documents we prepare are well equipped to assist you with obtaining the benefits that are available to you and to do so before you wipe out all your assets. However, we cannot assist when we don’t hear from you.