While you won’t be planning a trip to the land of Oz like Dorothy, someday you will be thinking about how to pass on your life’s savings to your children and grandchildren. The automatic though is “I need a Will.” That is always true but trusts and beneficiary designations can also play a vital role. A will is a legal document that passes assets to the people you name, if those assets don’t pass to them because of joint ownership or beneficiary designations, or by trust. So, a will is always needed just in case the house, or bank account or stocks and bonds do not automatically transfer to the persons you want.
Years ago, Congress, passed laws to protect a husband and wife family unit from being totally wiped out financially if one of them needed expensive long term care, at home or in a nursing home. Then Medicare and Medicaid regulations were adopted to implement those laws. Ironically, they are called spousal impoverishment regulations, but the purpose is the exact opposite, which is to avoid total impoverishment.
Care is the key word in Life Care Plan. Care is what is needed when a person’s physical condition or mental functioning is reduced to the point where the help of another person is needed. That would be due to disease, dementia, accidents or any condition or event that reduces a person’s ability to function normally and do the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating, getting in or out of bed or toileting. The spouse or other family members provide most of this help in the early stages of physical or mental decline, but at some point it may not be realistic for the family to give that care. Children may live far away, or the spouse may not be able to cope due to advanced age. Sometimes a healthy spouse gives so much physical and emotional effort that burnout occurs, which means that healthy spouse’s emotional strength is burned up and that spouse’s health also declines. That is where a life care plan is invaluable..
A person who cannot do those things for essential selfcare due to physical or mental deficiencies is what the Public Policy Institute of AARP calls self-neglect. Some of the signs of elder self-neglect are poor personal hygiene, bedsores or skin rashes, untreated injuries or infections, weight loss and dehydration or malnutrition. Still other signs are unpaid bills, unsanitary or unsafe living conditions, poor personal hygiene, lack of food in the home, and improper or dirty clothing..
After World War II the typical family raising the baby boomers was a married couple and children. Planning for death or taking care of parents was relatively simple. But now blended families with second marriages of the parents and of the children look more like the Brady Brunch or the movie “Yours, Mine, and Ours.” That means planning for care of the elders with increased life spans and their deaths, has to
take into account the special challenges that blended families present.
Every day we are a day older, and so are all our loved ones, and that means, over time, that our health, finances, expenses, and family relationships change. There is marriage, divorce, children born, parents dying, unexpected health care expenses, job changes, increase or decrease in financial assets, and for very few, even hitting the lottery. No matter who you are, these changes as life goes by can require small or large updates to your estate planning.