Were you aware that as of today less than half of all American adults have an estate plan? Unfortunately, in the event of a crisis, these adults will not have not chosen a trusted person who will have the legal authority to make their decisions. While many of us think of our estate planning in terms of inheritance and planning for our loved ones at the time of our passing, there are also lifetime decisions that your estate plan can protect you with as well. These lifetime decisions could be as simple as paying the mortgage bill or making sure a paycheck is deposited to something much more complicated such as who has the authority to pick up your minor children from school or how to manage your business. Therefore, your estate plan is a vital tool in making sure you are always protected and your loved ones are provided for. That being said, what about elder law and long-term care planning?

In fact, are estate planning, elder law and long-term care planning different?  Yes. As important as your estate planning is in protecting you, your family, and your goals, it may not be enough. While your estate plan will allow you to plan for yourself, your loved ones, your business, and your legacy during both your lifetime and at the time of your passing, it does not address your long-term care needs. In other words, what will happen as you age and you potentially face more challenges?

This is where estate planning, as crucial as it is, is different. It does not encompass elder law planning. Elder law planning is, however, long-term care planning and contemplates a time when you may not be able to care of yourself or live alone. During this National Elder Law Month, we believe it is vital to share this information with you and help you better understand why elder law planning is, in addition to estate planning, so important and critical to your health and well being. Below are a few key examples we want you to be aware of in regard to where estate planning ends and elder law planning begins.

  1. Be aware that estate planning does not necessarily plan for long-term care but it can help. With your estate planning documents, specifically your durable power of attorney and health care documents, you can choose the trusted person who can make decisions for you at a time you may be incapacitated. This might be due to a surgery or a car accident, but it also could be the result of a medical condition such as Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. In these instances, while your estate planning documents may not contemplate long-term care, it can give your trusted agent, who you chose, the authority to both find you the care that you need and work with your Florida elder law attorney to find ways to pay for it. 
  1. Be aware that elder law planning addresses the gap in medical coverage for seniors.  Medicare is an acute payor system and does not cover the cost of any long-term care. However, Medicare will pay for your hospital stay and portions of your rehabilitation, but it will not pay for the potential need for assisted living or skilled nursing home facility care. In most cases, families today cannot afford the high cost of long-term care in a facility that can start at $4,000 or more per month. Beginning careful elder law planning with your experienced Florida elder law attorney, you can make a plan for how to find the care you may need in the future and a way to pay for it. Starting long-term care planning now and not waiting for a crisis may mean there will be more options available to choose from.
  1. Be aware that long-term care planning may be overlooked by estate planning attorneys. Elder law is still a fairly young area of law. However, as more and more Americans age there is an increasing need for elder law planning. Your Florida elder law planning attorney will be able to make sure your estate plan is written in a way that allows for long-term care planning in the future. Your advanced directives and power of attorney do need specific language in them to be able to work when you need long-term care planning, which may come at a time when you can no longer make decisions for yourself.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We know you may have questions about this, and many other, issues. At the Perlin Estate Planning & Probate our credentials enable us to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to our legal services.  By building relationships with our clients, we are also able to understand each client’s needs and desires, and we support such goals through thoughtful, comprehensive planning techniques. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.