Cassandra Girouard Jones: Plan to maximize your quality of life
May 1, 2012
I have been honored to join Darcy K. Houghton as the managing attorney at our law firm in Carson City. By joining the firm, I hope to serve the community by offering a broader practice in elder law.
Elder law is an area of law that includes estate, public benefits and end-of-life planning. It helps you plan to maintain your independence, puts a protective covering over your assets, can help you access resources to pay for care, and minimize the burden on your family and friends. In addition, elder law planning can achieve the traditional goals of passing your legacy, values and assets to your loved ones.
The real threat to an estate under current law is not taxation. This year, a married couple can pass up to $10 million in assets tax free. Next year, a married couple can pass up to $2 million in assets tax free.
Instead, the real threat is the cost of uncovered long-term care and medical costs. Most seniors need some level of assistance with activities of daily living as they age. By age 65, one in two people will need some type of long-term care to provide for their daily needs. This means that you will likely face the mounting costs of health and lifestyle care as you age. Long-term care – the assistance you need to meet your daily needs, like bathing, cooking, and cleaning – is often not covered by Medicare or health insurance. In our area, long-term care costs approximately $20 per hour. Full time care, then, runs about $13,000 per month.
Without proper planning, you may have to deplete your resources to pay for necessary care. Worse yet, a married couple may deplete their resources to take care of only one spouse – leaving the other without the resources he or she needs. Without proper planning, you will eventually qualify for Medicaid or Veterans Affairs pension benefits, but only after you have spent your estate into poverty levels, often leaving nothing of value for your spouse or children. Once you do qualify for public benefits, they can provide you with assistance for medical care, medication, food, and shelter. Often, however, these benefits offer a poor quality of life.
Proper planning can put a protective coating around your assets so that you can access necessary care without impoverishing yourself or your spouse, or undermining your quality of life. Many elder law planning techniques would allow you to preserve assets for the care of the well-spouse, for minor or special-needs children, and keep you in your home. Additionally, insurance and other tools can be used to create the resources you need to afford your care.
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Proper planning can help you maintain your quality of life and independence while still getting necessary care. However, there are often time limits involved in elder law planning. It is vital that you seek a review of your elder care-planning needs sooner, rather than later, so that we can maximize the resources available to you.
• Cassandra Girouard Jones was born and raised in Carson City. She practices elder law, estate planning, and business law in Carson City, Douglas County, and Lyon County. You may reach her at 882-1777.