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Insurance & Estate Planning

The family gift of long-term care planning.

By Lisa Dregne, February 6, 2019

It is not a mistake that I put “family” in the title with long-term care planning. Family members are the ones affected most when a loved one can no longer care for themselves safely if no plan is in place. A plan for long-term care takes into account identifying WHERE you would like to be cared for, WHO you would like to care for you and HOW it will be financed.  

Building a support system

My passion for this topic stems from my own family dynamics. Let me share the situation I now find myself a part of with my own family. Perhaps you can identify with some parts of this yourself or know of someone in a similar predicament.    

Like is typical of his generation, my 76-year old father and step-mom have not shared any piece of their financial situation with me or my two sisters. I have no idea if they have funds to pay for either of their eventual care needs. My step-mom is wonderful and has taken on the responsibility to care for him full time due to his current health issues, but it has really taken its toll on her after just one year of caregiving. She needs a support system, but none of us children are in a position to help due to having young kids and careers of our own. Fortunately, her daughter and granddaughter ended up moving near them from across the country. The impact on my family is just beginning…  

Identifying the care you may need

What happens if my step-mom passes first? My father lives in Florida, I (the oldest) live in Wisconsin, my youngest sister and her family live in Pennsylvania, my middle sister lives 25 minutes from my father. My middle sister has 3 children under 8 and both her and her husband have very good careers that neither would have any desire to give up to care for my dad. Due to her proximity, however, there would be no question that she would end up doing the care coordinating of professional care – if it is even affordable. If it’s not affordable, one of us girls will need take him in.

Is Title 19 right for you?

Title 19 in other states is not nearly as “good” as many have experienced in Wisconsin. My dad could easily be moved hours away to a more remote area of the state where space may be available. The guilt of doing that would be overwhelming. Although my step-sister is very fond of my dad, she moved to Florida to help her mother, not my dad. Whichever one of us daughters that takes him in will inevitably experience a huge toll emotionally and/or financially. I worry about what may happen in the future, as I have absolutely no control over it. Since most Americans have not done any long-term care planning ahead of a need, you likely have some idea what I’m going through or will go through in the future.  

Having a long-term care insurance policy

On the flip side, my single mother 14 years ago hired a financial advisor to put her entire retirement plan together which included long-term care planning. She made sure to put funds aside for her likely long-term care needs in the form of a long-term care insurance policy. Little did I know what a gift she gave us three girls by making that investment at a time when she could afford to, and then planned the distribution of the remaining retirement assets in retirement at a level that looks to be at a level of care she wanted for herself would always be available.

Make sure you know what your loved one wants and needs

My mom was also sure to sit down with us girls and communicated:

  1. What she wanted for her care.
  2. Educated us on the basics of her assets and long-term care policy.  
  3. Showed us the estate planning documents she put in place.
  4. Expressed emphatically how no matter what, we were not to give up those precious years with our kids and careers to take care of her unless there was truly no other option.

The only expectation of me is to help coordinate her care being that I am the closest physically to her, not to provide care. I have accepted this responsibility and my sisters have taken on others such as powers of attorney for healthcare, funeral planning, etc. Although life could change her plan, at this time it looks like the planning she and her advisor did will save three families from a very difficult situation, one that often tears families/siblings apart. Thank you, mom!

Getting the help you need when you need it

Have you thought about your own long-term care planning? There is a lot to consider. We have put together some great worksheets to help you get started. We even offer a free one-on-one education session for our clients called “LTC 101 Planning” to help guide you through the WHERE, WHO and HOW of the planning process. Please call the office to inquire more about it.

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