Human behavior is often a curious thing. People tend to delay or fail to do something, even when there’s every incentive and benefit to do it. Estate planning and elder law planning is like that. Focusing, for the moment, just on elder law or Medicaid planning, the earlier someone plans the more options they have (and the greater the benefit).
As you might expect, clients arrive at my doorstep in one of three stages in the planning journey, (1) as a married couple, where both spouses are healthy and we have at least 5 years before a long-term care stay, (2) as a married couple, where one spouse needs long-term care immediately (or sooner), and (3) where the loving child comes to me with the last remaining parent, who needs immediate long-term care, and the child has no idea how they will pay for it without spending all of their parent’s savings and possessions.
What you might not expect (unless you focused on my introductory paragraph) is that the smallest percentage of people who come to see me are at the stage when I can do the most good — Stage 1 — (and most come to me when our options are fewest, Stage 3). It’s just another of example of people not acting in their best interests.
So, what’s the point of planning?
Regardless of what stage clients are in, I think there are two points to planning. First, we want to preserve as many options as we can — options such as saving money, controlling how long someone stays at home or avoiding a guardianship proceeding. Second, we want to shift the burden of legal concerns from the client to the law firm. If we’re successful, we can help clients stay focused on the care needs of the older adult.
Here’s a great example of how Medicaid or Veterans Aid & Attendance planning can help keep clients focused on the right things. As this New York Times article — about a woman who has been caring for her 93 year-old mother with dementia — makes clear, the job is demanding and draining — physically, financially, and emotionally. With the aid of good planning, she can spend her emotional and physical resources on the day-to-day challenges of dealing with her mom, and not on the enormity of legal planning.
Posted by Victor Medina, Medina Law Group & The New Jersey Estate Planning Center