Assembling Your “A Team” and Planning for the Future
Building a strong plan for your future years will provide peace of mind
We all want to live on our own terms and be in control of our own futures. The time to start planning is NOW- don’t wait until crisis strikes! Diligent and detailed planning now can help provide invaluable peace of mind in the future for both you and your loved ones. Having the proper documentation in place now enables you to have a say over your future care and finances even if, God forbid, you should no longer be able to dictate your wishes and goals due to health issues, incapacity etc.
As this new year begins, we encourage you to start thinking about your future and what it is that you want out of life. Here are a few things to consider:
What is your aging plan?
Some seniors eventually decide to move in with friends or family but data from a recent AARP survey show that 77% of adults 50 and older want to remain in their homes for the long-term and this number has been consistent for more than a decade. The fact that aging-in-place is so popular is why home healthcare continues to be in high demand.
Independent/Assisted Living and Memory Care facilities are also long-term care options. Regardless of where and how one wants to age, it is imperative that you start to assess your finances to figure out when the right time might be to make this move. Home healthcare is a good “steppingstone” for those eventually wanting to live in an Assisted Living or Memory Care facility since home healthcare tends to be more cost-effective and can help maximize your liquid assets.
Do you have a will and, if applicable, are trusts set up to protect your assets?
Having a last will and testament is critical when it comes to ensuring your personal affairs are in order. Through a will, you decide who inherits your assets and in establishing this ahead of time you help prevent issues in probate court in the future- which can be quite lengthy and costly in nature.
Life is full of unknowns and, while we all would like to think that we will be in relatively good health throughout our retirement and older adult life, nothing is ever guaranteed. It’s hardly anyone’s goal to end up in a nursing home but if this happens to you, you want to be sure your assets (like your home and any investment property/properties) are protected by trusts so that the nursing home can’t access the equity. Regardless of whether you own one home or multiple homes, establishing trusts is crucial and it is something that should be done sooner rather than later!
Have you decided who you will appoint to be your Healthcare Proxy?
The truth of the matter is that there could be a time when we become incapacitated and unable to make decisions pertaining to our health and wellness ourselves. This is exactly why it is imperative that you name someone (whether a family member, friend, or trusted confidante) to be your Healthcare Proxy- allowing them to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
Similar to a Healthcare Proxy is a Power of Attorney. A Healthcare Proxy is designated to make medical decisions on an individual’s behalf while a Power of Attorney is designated to make financial decisions on an individual’s behalf. Having both a Healthcare Proxy and a Power of Attorney established sets you up for success in the event the unexpected happens.
Are you aware of MassHealth/Medicaid “look-back periods”?
The cost of care for seniors adds up quick which is why many are forced to apply for MassHealth/Medicaid, even when they thought they had enough money to cover their long-term care needs. During the MassHealth application process, MassHealth may request up to five years of financial records for all assets as well as detailed explanations for all substantial transactions or deposit/withdrawal patterns. Because MassHealth investigates large transactions, this is why the practice of “gifting” and signing property or large sums of money away to friends or family does not work in aiding someone to be eligible for MassHealth benefits. The MassHealth application is known for being tedious, lengthy and confusing- this is why you really need an Elder Law Attorney, specifically, to guide you through the process and to provide expert advice when it comes to the “look-back periods.”
Do you have a Long-Term Care insurance policy? If so, do you know what your benefits are?
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you have a long-term care insurance plan that you’ve signed up for and have been contributing to. However, not all long-term care insurance policies are the same. There are a variety of long-term care companies and each policy offers different benefits with specific protocols regarding the reimbursement of fees for services, like home care. Consult with your long-term care insurance agent/broker to clarify what your policy covers and how it works. You may be surprised at some of the benefits you have available to you!
Don’t have a long-term care insurance policy? It may not be too late! The younger you are when you apply for long-term care insurance, the cheaper the policy will be but, even if you are older when you decide to look into long-term care insurance, it is definitely worth looking into as the benefits can far outweigh the investment (depending on the policy you qualify for).
Are you or spouse a Veteran? Do you know about Aid & Attendance Benefits?
You served our country, now let the benefits serve you when you need them most! VA Aid & Attendance or Housebound benefits provide monthly payments added to the amount of a monthly VA pension for qualified Veterans and survivors. You may also be surprised to learn that these benefits can apply not only to the Veteran but their spouse as well (if they qualify). To read more about Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits click here or contact your local Veterans Service Officer (VSO).
What is or what will be your main source of income and what is the expected budget you will be living on post-retirement?
It’s no secret that Social Security stipends are minimal and quite difficult to survive on, especially as the cost of goods and services continues to rise post-coronavirus. Having the help of a financial advisor or Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is invaluable as they can guide you on how best to save money, make fruitful investments and keep you out of tax trouble. Tax season is right around the corner- this is usually a good time to start re-evaluating your finances so start thinking ahead!
The above is not an exhaustive list of considerations but it is a helpful starting point as you begin to plan. However, just as a quarterback relies on his teammates to carry out plays and execute, you need to be the quarterback of your own life and carefully select who you want on your “A team” to help you successfully execute your strategic plans. Your “A team” should consist of the following:
- Elder Law Attorney
- Long-Term Care Insurance Broker
- Veterans Service Officer (if you or your loved one is a veteran)
- Financial Advisor/Trust Advisor
- Aging Service Access Point (ASAP)
- Geriatric Care Manager/Home Healthcare
- Primary Care Physician (PCP)
- Any other medical specialists
- Trusted friends and/or family members
For further guidance on this topic, email Michelle McNall at firstname.lastname@example.org and she can help you start to lay the foundation for a bright, secure future!