When we are healthy and in our prime, we do not often think about the big “what ifs.” Long-term care, as well as a potentially devastating illness, are generally the last thing on our minds. Unfortunately, many of us also believe that we will be protected from these issues simply by virtue of having an estate plan in place.
Most people think of estate planning as something that can settle your affairs after you are gone, but it can also help you live better in life. Estate plans can ensure you have a decision maker in place with legal authority to act for you in a crisis. Most plans do not, however, consider long-term care planning techniques that can protect your assets and ensure your legacy is intact should you need to be in a nursing home for any length of time.
Why should we think about long-term care planning early? There are many reasons. First to consider is cost. Long-term care in the United States can cost anywhere between $35,000 to well over $100,000 per year, depending on what level of medical attention you require. Without insurance, it is easy to decimate your assets trying to access the care you need.
Many Older Americans and their loved ones also share the misconception that Medicare will cover these costs. Unfortunately, Medicare pays only under certain circumstances, and only for a short time. Public benefits programs such as Ohio Medicaid may be able to help pay but, to be eligible, your income and assets must be structured in a way that complies with the Medicaid rules.
In planning for long-term care, you have a few options:
- Purchase a long-term care insurance policy. Most policies will not cover you from your first day in care, and it may not cover you for an indefinite period. They also may need only be activated under certain health circumstances.
- Put extra money away to pay for long-term care out-of-pocket. This option could make your retirement planning very stressful and expensive.
- Create an elder law plan that can help you plan to qualify for programs such as Medicaid. There are certain requirements, but when you plan with an elder law attorney, Medicaid can be an option and even incorporate estate planning strategies.
One of the keys to this equation is to understand how the Medicaid program works. Did you know, for example, that Medicaid limits the resources you can have in order to qualify? There are exceptions to countable assets, which your elder law attorney can discuss with you, such as the fact that this amount does not include the equity in your principal residence, up to a certain amount, or your primary vehicle.
In certain circumstances, it is also possible to work with your attorney to structure your estate plan in such a way that you can access the care you need and preserve your legacy. As every state has its own asset policy concerning Medicaid, it is essential to speak to your Ohio elder law attorney to learn more about how it can work for you. We encourage you not to wait to set up an appointment with us today, or any time in the future.