Funeral Planning: Not a Festive Thought, But A Kind One

Funeral planning as part of your estate plan provides clear, final wishes, names a person to execute them and helps your family cope at a difficult time.

No one wants to do funeral planning, but leaving instructions for your funeral and burial wishes relieves loved ones of the burden of making decisions and hoping they are following your wishes. In addition, says the article “Important to provide instructions for preferred funeral, burial wishes” from The Leader, it also prevents arguments between relatives and friends who have their own opinions about what they think you may have wanted.

What often happens is that people make their funeral plan and final wishes part of their estate plan.  In some states, burial wishes are found in a will.  However, this often presents a problem as the will is usually not looked at until after the funeral. If your loved ones don’t know where your will is, then they certainly won’t know what your wishes were for the funeral.  Without clear written directions, spiritual practices or cultural traditions that are important to you, may not be followed.

An estate planning attorney can help you create a document that outlines your wishes and will have suggestions for how to discuss this with your family and where it should be located.  In Texas, much like in New York as referenced in the article, there is a form that allows you to name an agent who will be in charge of your remains.  In Texas it is called the Appointment for Disposition of Remains.  You can give your instructions to that person in the document which takes the mystery and a lot of the difficulty out of the process.

In Texas, if you don’t name a person to control the disposition of remains, there is an order of priority for decision makers, including spouses, a child, a parent and so on.  If you wouldn’t want those individuals making these decisions, an Appointment for Disposition of Remains is essential.

For funeral planning, one option is to go to the funeral home and arrange to pay for the funeral and go to the cemetery and purchase a plot. In Texas, a pre-need, pre-paid irrevocable burial plan may also be excluded from Medicaid for long-term care purposes.  See here for more on that topic.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/elder-law-questions/

Some people wish to donate their organs, which can be done on a driver’s license or in another statement. This should also be authorized on you Medical Power of Attorney so that your agent has the authority to do so.  Donating your body for medical research or education will require researching medical schools or other institutions and may require an application and other paperwork that confirms your intent to donate your body. When you pass, your family member or whoever is in charge will need to contact the organization and arrange for transport of your remains.

A comprehensive estate plan does more than distribute assets at death. It also includes what a person’s wishes are for their funeral and burial wishes. Think of it as a gift to loved ones.

Reference: The Leader (December 7, 2019) “Important to provide instructions for preferred funeral, burial wishes”

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Long Term Care Insurance in your Retirement Plan

Include long term care insurance in your retirement plan to protect your legacy from rising costs such as the nursing home, assisted living and in-home care.

Roughly 60% of those turning 65 can anticipate using some form of long term care in their lives, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. It may be a nursing home, assisted living, or in-home care.  Long term care insurance is a great way to cover those costs.

CNBC’s recent article, “Not having long-term care insurance can be ‘the single biggest devastator’ of your financial plan,” reports that over 8 million Americans have long term care insurance. However, the cost of that insurance is rising. This increase is because of several factors, including the fact that companies underpriced their policies for years and misjudged how many would drop coverage.

Because of those rising premiums, some individuals may choose self-insurance. That means saving a pool of money to earmark for long term care. Coverage is also available through Medicaid, which has eligibility requirements.

Even with these increases, you should consider purchasing some form of coverage. This is because not being insured can be the biggest devastator of a financial plan.

The rule of thumb has been to buy LTC coverage at age 55. However, it really depends on your situation. The big unknown is health, and the odds of being able to qualify for coverage at age 60, compared to age 30 or 40 is vastly different.  See here for a fuller description.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/when-should-i-consider-long-term-care-insurance/

A traditional LTC policy will cover the costs of care for a certain period of time, generally up to six years. The amount of coverage is based on the average cost of care for your location. Most insurers offer it in the form of a monthly benefit, and possibly with some inflation protection.

There’s also a hybrid policy that covers long term care costs but becomes life insurance paid to heirs, if it’s not used. Of the 350,000 Americans who purchased long term care protection in 2018, 85% chose the hybrid coverage. It’s also called combo or linked-benefit. The big difference is price: you’ll pay more for the hybrid policy.

Medicaid is another option, particularly if you don’t have a way to save. To be eligible, you must meet financial guidelines.  Medicaid also looks back five years into your finances, so if you have given away any money during that period of time, it may be subject to penalty.

Long term care insurance is a great tool to address rising long term care costs in your retirement.  If you don’t have or can’t get a policy that’s right for you, an elder law attorney can help explore Medicaid or other benefit options to cover your long term care needs.

Reference: CNBC (October 14, 2019) “Not having long-term care insurance can be ‘the single biggest devastator’ of your financial plan”

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When Should I Consider Long Term Care Insurance?

Many people haven’t adequately planned for long term care costs. Consider long term care insurance early as a way to cover those costs.

You can bet that you won’t need long term care in your lifetime, but you’ll probably lose that bet: about 70% of seniors 65 and older require long term care at some point. That could be just a few months with a home health aide or it could mean a year (or more) of nursing home care. You can’t know for sure. However, without long term care insurance, you run the risk that you’ll be forced to cover a very large expense on your own.

The Motley Fool’s recent article, “75% of Older Americans Risk This Major Expense in the Future,” says many older workers are going into retirement without long term care coverage in place. In a recent Nationwide survey, 75% of future retirees aged 50 and over said they that don’t have long term care insurance. If that’s you, you should begin considering it, because the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to qualify, and the more expensive it becomes.

If you do not purchase long term are insurance, but need to pay for long term care, there are other options, such as government benefits like Medicaid.  I’ll focus on insurance in this article, but see here for more information about long term care and how to pay for it.  https://www.galliganmanning.com/long-term-care-whats-it-all-about/

Long term care insurance can be costly, which is why many people don’t buy it. However, the odds are that your policy won’t be anywhere near as expensive as the actual price for the care you could end up needing. That’s why it’s important to look at your options for long term care insurance. The ideal time to apply is in your mid-50s. At that age, you’re more likely to be approved along with some discounts on your premiums. If you wait too long, you’ll risk being denied or seeing premiums that are prohibitively expensive.

Note that not all policies are the same. Therefore, you should look at what items are outside of your premium costs. This may include things such as the maximum daily benefit the policy permits or the maximum time frame covered by your policy. It should really be two years at a minimum. There are policies written that have a waiting period for having your benefits kick in and others that either don’t have one or have shorter time frames. Compare your options and see what makes the most sense.

You don’t necessarily need the most expensive long term care policy available. If you’ve saved a good amount for retirement, you’ll have the option of tapping your IRA or 401(k) to cover the cost of your care. The same is true if you own a home worth a lot of money, because you can sell it or borrow against it.

It’s important to remember to explore your options for long term care insurance, before that window of opportunity shuts because of age or health problems. Failing to secure a policy could leave you to cover what could be a devastatingly expensive bill.

Reference: Motley Fool (September 23, 2019) “75% of Older Americans Risk This Major Expense in the Future”

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