“Don’t forfeit your right to choose.”

“If you run out of money, you run out of options.”

“Time is not on your side.”

As Elder Law attorneys we sometimes use such words to emphasize the importance of pre-planning for estate matters, the event of your incapacity, and for long-term care. While they may seem a little direct and to-the-point, we really cannot overstate how devastating an unexpected illness or life-changing event can be on individuals/families who have done little or no planning.

If you are a senior citizen or if you have an older parent, you are probably concerned about your own or his/her well-being if there is a sudden change or decline in health. Planning ahead is ideal, but sometimes things happen before a plan is in place. It’s important to have good guidance in these times as well.

Forfeiting your right to choose (here’s one example):

If you do not have a last will and testament, a court will order your property to be divided among your surviving relatives according to “intestate law.” Basically, the courts decide who will receive your property if you have done no planning. In essence, the state will write your will for you. It typically says that if you do not have will at the time of your death, a certain amount will pass to your spouse, if you have one, and a certain amount to your children. If you have no spouse or children, then more distant relatives will receive your assets. Obviously, most people want to have a greater say regarding who will receive their property, which is why we take estate planning measures. Regardless of how much money or how many assets you have, some pre-planning will benefit you and your loved ones.

At the very least, everyone should establish the following four basic – yet properly prepared – documents: a Property Power of Attorney, a Healthcare Power of Attorney, a living will (this is a completely different document than a last will and testament) and a HIPAA Authorization.

And with regards to long-term care…

Those that plan in advance have the option to choose the type of care they want in the event of their incapacity. Without planning, someone else chooses for you, often after your money is gone. We never know what will happen. If the money is set aside or protected in advance, you may have the options of residing at home and getting good care there, or living in a condo near your kids or in a nice assisted living facility of your choice.

However, even in a crisis, it’s never too late to do something to protect assets for a “well spouse” and/or the rest of the family. Most people who make the decision to move into a nursing home do so during a time of great stress. It’s important to know that federal laws can protect your loved ones from becoming totally impoverished because of your long-term care costs.

Fortunately, the Medicaid Program can help. In our lifetime, Medicaid has become the long-term care resource of the Middle Class. About two-thirds of the nation’s nursing home residents have their cost of care paid in part by Medicaid. But the eligibility to receive Medicaid benefits requires that you meet certain criteria regarding income and assets. The reason to seek Medicaid assistance is simple – you need to protect enough assets for the security of your loved ones.

But timing is everything…

The application process for Medicaid benefits can be complicated. The Department of Human Services may want to see everything you have done with your money for the last five years. If a caseworker finds anything not permitted by ‘the rules,’ you may have to wait through a penalty period without benefits.

We are dedicated to helping Arkansas families find and utilize every benefit available in navigating the Elder Care continuum. While we can’t always predict when illness or incapacity will strike, we do know that a little forethought and pre-planning can go a long way. The time to act is now! With proper planning you will insure that things are handled according to your wishes and that you’ve taken the best steps possible to protect your loved ones and to protect your family’s financial security.

Don’t let the Law of Unintended Consequences take over. Imagine the peace of mind you’ll gain when you stop reacting to your situation and put into place a positive action plan.

If you would like the guidance of an Elder Care firm which has helped hundreds of Arkansas families, contact us toll free at 800-844-0030, or continue browsing this site. We have numerous free reports and Consumer’s Guides available, and will be happy to set up your FREE 1-hour initial consultation.

The information provided on this blog is intended as general information only for a broad audience. It is not intended as legal advice and should not be acted upon as such. If any reader has questions or concerns about any matter mentioned herein, he/she should contact an Elder Law Attorney or other appropriate professional. If any reader has questions or suggestions about a future topic area that he/she would like to see discussed, please contact the author at doug@arkelderlaw.com.