Elder Law v/s Estate Planning
What is the similarity between the characters in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” and attorneys? Tradition!
All of my clients deal with estate planning issues: The majority of my clients who have planned their estates have done so under the traditional notions of estate planning which, unfortunately, leaves them largely exposed to the threat of uncovered long-term care costs.
Traditional estate planning involves preparation of wills or trusts, powers of attorney, living wills and advance directives. These documents are generally based on one of two notions. The first is that one day you will go to sleep and never wake up, and the biggest issue the estate plan needs to address is to make it easier for your loved ones to administer your estate. Alternatively, the plan will ensure that your appointed agents will be able to manage your financial and health care affairs without missing a beat should you face incapacity. But these solutions do not address the more urgent threat or the real issue of uncovered medical costs and depletion of the estate assets to support quality-of-life goals.
As discussed above, estate taxes no longer touch most estates. The real threat to an estate today, therefore, is not estate tax but rather the threat of uncovered long-term care costs. Understanding that the role of the estate planning process is to evaluate potential threats that could erode your estate and afford appropriate protective measures to avoid such erosion, the process generally falls short unless it includes guidance and assistance to your chosen fiduciaries on how they can approach the issue in a more reasoned and educated manner. The guidance and assistance is designed to aid in asset preservation through the employment of legal solutions and management of quality of life of you and involved family members.
An Elder Law Attorney practicing Life Care Planning addresses both these issues. They do so by understanding that most families dealing with disability or death of a family member seek not simply to protect assets, rather they seek to make sure that the protected wealth is used to address the care needs of the incapacitated and all those affected by the incapacity; or to bring peaceful closure to a chapter in their lives stemming from the demise of a loved one.
Through Life Care Planning much can be done to assure that should incapacity strike, quality of life of the incapacitated individual and that of others will be maximized and the affected family members will not be stressed to a breaking point dealing with the complications stemming from the incapacity.