Crawford Care Management

Planning For The Future

We all know the old adage about the two certainties in life: death and taxes. While we may pay quite a bit of attention to our taxes, most of us prefer not to think about our own death. If we do give it much thought , we hope and pray that our death will be a long time in the future, and quick and painless. And, we may hope that we have created no additional burden on our children as we depart from their lives.

At least a part of that wish is becoming a reality. Advancements in technology are helping us live longer. In 1900, the average life expectancy at birth was about 47 years old. Those born today are expected to live to 77 and beyond. And, the longer we live, our chances for reaching an even higher age become.

However, the same technology that is extending our lives can keep us alive under less than optimum conditions. As longevity increases, older adults are faced with more chronic illnesses, including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and dementia. Any of these may result in dependence on others for assistance with the basic activities of daily living.

When illnesses become terminal, they are often accompanied by long and expensive hospital stays, painful therapies, and little privacy at the end of one’s life. Some of us may want to have every possible measure taken to keep us alive one more day. Others, when a cure is no longer a possibility, may choose a greater focus on pain relief, preserving the greatest quality of life possible.

Consider these questions:

  • Do you have a will that directs who will receive your property when you die?
  • Do you have a plan for funding your long-term care needs?
  • Does your family know about your strong desire to be kept alive at all costs, even if you are terminally ill?
  • Or, have you discussed with anyone your decision to decline treatment in certain circumstances and have you asked your doctor to provide only comfort and care?
  • If you’d lost your ability to function, physically and mentally, and were now presented the option of a feeding tube to keep you from starvation, would you elect this option? If you were unable to communicate, would your children know your wishes on the matter?

Now, more than any other time in our history, seniors must be concerned with what will happen if we lose our capacity to make decisions for ourselves. How will our care be provided and our estate distributed? Without advance directives, doctors, family, or the courts may need to guess our wishes, or make decisions for us.

Admittedly, it is difficult to discuss dying with anyone, especially family members. Though it’s an uncomfortable subject, the possibility of loss of control brought on by illness or injury needs to be discussed openly if family members are to know our wishes and if we want to have a say in the events at the end of our lives.

Things you can do:

  • Detail financial information – document personal information and inventory all possessions; maintain a list of all family members including full names and addresses; maintain a file of all tax returns; note prior marriages and children from those marriages; document all property owned; bank accounts and insurance policies with account numbers; assets; business interests; credits cards with numbers; veterans benefits; pensions and retirement plans; location of safe deposit boxes and keys; document all weekly, monthly, and annual financial transactions.
  • Open and honest family discussions – communication and understanding of the goals and wishes of our parents creates an opportunity for peace of mind and a clear sense of control over possible future events. Absent from these discussions, doctors and family members must guess our wishes – or make decisions for us. Parents or children should initiate these discussions.
  • Long term care insurance – study up on this coverage so you can have an intelligent discussion with your financial advisor about it. Decide whether you need long term care insurance or whether you can self-fund your care. If you are considering a policy, compare annual premiums, benefit periods and amounts, waiting periods, inflation adjustments (all policies must have one), and special features.
  • Give serious thought to a power of attorney – which appoints an agent for health and, separately, for financial matters in the event of incapacity. Instructions to a trusted agent (usually, but not always, a family member) can be broad or very specific. Power of attorney instructions should reflect your beliefs, whatever they may be, regarding quality of life and the importance of physical and mental capabilities. Give some thought to your preferences.
  • Funeral Planning – on average, the cost of a funeral service, burial, transportation and obituary notice is between $8,000 and $10,000. You can spend a lot more. By becoming an informed customer, doing some comparative shopping and advanced planning, you can obtain substantial savings - and provide peace of mind for you and your family.

Things your financial planner or legal advisor can do:

  • Estate planning is an effort to plan for your lifetime healthcare and financial needs, as well as way to determine what will happen with your estate after death. Your advisor can help you manage your assets during life and distribute assets at death, implement tax strategies, establish trusts, make gifts, document medical directives, establish guardianship or conservatorship if needed, and plan for funding of long term care needs.
  • Prepare a legally binding will that directs who will receive your property at your death and appoints a legal representative, executor or executrix, to carry out your wishes.
  • Establish a durable power of attorney to designate a person to act in your place for financial purposes when you become incapacitated.
  • Establish a durable power of attorney for healthcare to designate someone to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
  • Financial planning – most of us will fund our retirement and our long term care needs through social security/Medicare benefits, supplemental insurance coverage, personal savings, and company pensions. If you determine that these resources are insufficient to cover all of your needs, other means of funding may be possible, including life insurance policies, annuities, life settlements, and reverse mortgages. Talk to your financial advisor about these options.
  • Help you understand Medicare and Medicaid entitlement programs