Long-Term Estate Planning & Elder Care Options
A Boutique of Long-term Elder Care Options for Our Changing Times
Many investment firms focus on saving an elder’s money to pass on to their heirs. But Life Care Planning Law Firms focus on using elders’ money for their own benefit, to maximize their quality of life and independence. This is true for elderly people who are still healthy and vigorous, as well as those with disabilities who want to look out for their future. Usually their family also participates with us in developing a plan so that their loved ones’ medical care, housing, and future needs are assured.
Life Care Plans: Establishing “Peace-of-Mind” Elder Care Strategies
Life Care Planning is a relatively new, holistic, approach to elder care. Tailored to each individual (or married couple), it helps them respond to every challenge caused by chronic illness or disability. Life Care Planning promotes the maintenance of good health, safety, well-being, and quality of life of elders and their families. It involves a wide array of options for care and informed guidance from a team of compassionate legal and healthcare advisors who empower families to make proper decisions about every aspect of their loved one’s well-being.
The Life Care Planning attorneys and specialists at Bunch & Brock help families identify present and future care needs; obtain high-quality healthcare providers; and establish the right financial vehicles to relieve families of the monetary stress that can accompany elder care. We believe in a preventative approach that offers peace of mind over crisis management, which can force decision-making that may not always be well considered. Some of these vehicles are described below.
Powers of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney authorizes a designated person to act on behalf of another in financial and legal matters. “Durable” means the “designated person to act” has the power once the “designator” has lost his or her mental capacity. The person who is given the power is called an Attorney-In-Fact. If you sign a Durable Power of Attorney, It allows another person to handle your banking, financial and legal affairs. This should not be confused with a Health Care Surrogate, who is appointed to make only healthcare decisions if the elder becomes unable to do so.
If you do not have a Power of Attorney and lose mental capacity or become physically incapacitated for an extended period, your family must obtain a Guardianship over you. This can be complicated and a less-than-pleasant experience.
Another Power of Attorney is called an Immediate Power of Attorney. The difference between it and a “Durable POA” is that it becomes effective the moment you sign it. When you select your Attorney-In-Fact, it must be someone you implicitly trust and can be anyone you wish. It need not be a relative, spouse, or oldest child. Your Attorney-In-Fact doesn’t even need to live in Kentucky.
Living Wills – Documents that Speak for You when You are No Longer Able
Advances in medical technology enable severely or terminally ill patients to be kept alive in prolonged, or painful – and expensive – ways. But this sometimes burdensome condition is causing many to refuse such medical treatment if it there’s a poor prognosis or anticipated diminished quality of life. Advance directives are a group of written instructions that outline specific actions to be taken for a person who is no longer able to make healthcare decisions because of illness or incapacity.
Living Wills do not supersede your ability to make decisions for yourself as long as you are mentally capable of accepting or refusing any medical treatment. It merely speaks for you when you cannot and would otherwise refuse life-sustaining care. It also relieves liability from medical professionals for following your written wishes to not be kept alive by “heroic means.” A physician must determine you are no longer competent and certify in writing that you are in an end-stage medical condition or a persistent vegetative state to trigger your Living Will.
You can use a Kentucky Living Will to:
- Designate a Healthcare Surrogate
- Refuse or request life-prolonging treatment
- Refuse or request artificial feeding or hydration (tube feeding)
- Express your wishes regarding organ donation.
Trusts – Taking Care of the Money that Takes Care of You
Several different types of trusts are used for Medicaid planning purposes, depending on the type of assets you own and your plans for distributing them. When a trust is created, you lose your ownership of that asset, and a trustee appointed by you is charged with distributing that asset. Trusts assure your assets are held for your – or your loved ones’ – benefit. Income trusts are irrevocable and pay support income to you and your spouse. The trust pays on a daily, weekly, monthly, semi-annual or annual basis. You can use trust income to cover any living or maintenance care expenses you direct the trust to pay. Upon death, the trust passes to your directed heirs.
Any monies or designated property you place in an Asset Protection trust will be fully protected from Medicaid five years after they are placed in the trust. This trust also allows you to provide these assets to your children and heirs without the risk that they must be used for your long-term care/nursing home costs.
Supplemental needs trusts are created for the disabled. If a relative or friend is permanently disabled, you may transfer funds into a trust for their benefit with no penalty. It does not affect the disabled person’s financial eligibility for Medicaid, nor will it affect your eligibility. However, if the disabled person dies prior to the funds in the trust expiring, the remainder will go to the state of Kentucky to cover Medicaid funds expended on their behalf.
Qualified Income Trust (QIT). Also known as a Miller Trust, this is an irrevocable trust especially designed to legally divert a person or married couple’s income into a trust, resulting in the income being excluded for purposes of determining eligibility for nursing home Medicaid and home and community-based waiver services. Kentucky is one of several states which permit the use of a QIT when a Medicaid applicant’s income exceeds the special income limit. Kentucky’s, special income limit for an individual is 300 percent of the Social Security Income (SSI) benefit rate. For married applicants, the income limit is $4,326 per month.
The experienced Kentucky Life Care attorneys at Bunch & Brock understand that each plan must be as unique as the family it serves. We work incredibly hard to protect the best interests of hundreds of clients faced with the elder care questions that concern today. We are committed to providing our clients with a high level of personal service. Whether you’re planning for your own future or for the future of a loved one, we can help. To schedule an initial consultation, please call 859-254-5522 or fill out this online form.