Life Care Planning – NOT Estate planning is what is needed for those looking at retirement or are already retired.
Meet Mrs. A who comes to my office with her son and daughter to discuss her options in dealing with her husband’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Would she lose her assets? Are her legal documents in order? In discussing the options I suggested to her (as I do to all in similar situations) the issue that she is focusing on revolves around a keen understanding of her husband’s prognosis and understanding of his disease trajectory. The couple had been married for well over 30 years, but had been divorced once during marriage and later reconciled. The marriage was not without challenges but they seemed to be trying to work things out together. I suggested that we should have a care manager review the situation to determine what services might be needed to allow the family to keep Dad at home. I suggested that without this analysis it was more likely than not that legal planning would accomplish little more than saving assets – but to what end? The purpose of the assets should be to allow both spouses to have a good quality of life, which would be possible only if the proper interventions were identified to allow for appropriate respite for family members, remove hazards from the home that would make it possible for the family to cope with the issues. Plus, having identified a plan would allow for the legal team to develop a better asset protection plan.
Well, Mrs. A decided that this was all not necessary and she took the information and went to an estate planning attorney who helped her revise her wills and transfer all assets out of the husband’s name to her name. And that was the plan he recommended. After about a year and a half I get a call from the daughter who needs immediate and urgent help. What happened? Mom called her and told her to come and get dad as she can no longer provide for his needs. Never had a care plan put in place, never looked at respite options and now she is too tired. Daughter is feeling that because mom has all the assets she is treating dad poorly. And is there any way to protect the assets? At least half of the assets under a divorce? Dad is quite miserable and mom is not being too helpful. When pressed about details of the estate plan prepared the daughter was not sure what, if any, protections were built in for dad. And now it would appear that the only option for dad may well be a divorce to protect half the assets unless mom has a change of heart.
All this could have been prevented with a bit of forethought. But, this was not what conventional planning calls for. Life Care Planning is the process of looking at not only legal issues, but pulling together healthcare, housing, financial and legal issues so that not only can assets be protected but quality of life of all involved can be preserved. What we need today is not estate planning – we need life care planning solutions.