Long-Term Care Planning, Part 1 – A Central Requirement

Health care has been the topic of discussion lately, but the greatest threat to your financial health is long-term care. This is the kind of care you need if you are not able to perform normal daily activities (such as eating, dressing, bathing and toileting) without help, and it is expected that you will need this help for an extended period of time, often for the rest of your life.

Long-term care is often needed due to aging, chronic illness or injury, and with people living longer, most of us will need it for at least some time before we die. But it is not just for the elderly—a good number of younger, working-age adults are currently receiving long-term care due to accident, illness or injury.

The Key Takeaways
• The cost of long-term care is the greatest threat to your financial health.
• Most of us will need long-term care for at least some time before we die.
• It is better to assume you will need long-term care and plan for it than to just hope it doesn’t happen to you or a family member.

The Expense of Long-Term Care
Long-term care can be provided in your home, in an assisted living facility or in a nursing home. All can become very expensive over time.

For example, home health care can easily run over $20,000 per year—that’s at $16 per hour for just 25 hours per week. Depending on the skill required, number of hours needed and where you live, it can cost considerably more.

Assisted living facilities can cost more than $25,000 per year. Here, everything is a la carte—the more services you need, the higher the cost. Nursing home facilities, with round-the-clock care, are $50,000 or more a year.

Costs for long-term care are hard to estimate. The average stay in a nursing home is three years; patients with Alzheimer’s usually need care longer, often in specialized facilities. Again, the actual costs will depend on the kind of care you need, how long you require it and where you live. Expect these costs to increase as the cost of medical care, in general, continues to rise.

What You Need to Know: Long-term care expenses are not covered by health insurance, disability income insurance or Medicare. If you do not plan for these costs, and you or another family member requires long-term care, the results can be financially devastating for your family.

Actions to Consider
• Find out what costs are for long-term care in your area. Your financial and/or insurance advisor will be able to give you some parameters. You can also ask friends and neighbors; you probably know someone who has a family member receiving care at home or in a facility.
• Have an honest discussion with your spouse (and possibly other family members) about these costs and your desires about long-term care, should you need it. Most people want to stay in their homes. Find out what it would cost to make that happen—renovations to your home, home health care, etc.
• The next step is to start planning how to handle these costs, which will be addressed in Part 2.

Personal Risk Management, Part 2: Using Trusts in Estate Planning

Paying insurance premiums to protect against potential losses frees us mentally to enjoy driving a car, leave our house empty while on vacation and receive medical treatment for an injury or illness. In the same way, the use of trusts acts like insurance and can shift anxiety to comfort, turmoil to peace, and complexity to understanding.

The Key Takeaways
• Trusts provide a protective cure for many of the financial anxieties, concerns, frustrations and hassles we fear for ourselves and loved ones.
• Trusts also provide similar assurances for business owners and for those with considerable assets.
• The benefit of planning is peace of mind for you and your family now.

What Are Risks Related to Estate Planning?
Proper estate planning can protect you against awful things that can happen to you, your family and your assets. These can include: a costly and public court guardianship/conservatorship if you or your spouse becomes incapacitated; being kept in a vegetative state; a potentially costly and time consuming probate process after you die; federal and state estate taxes; a will contest or heirs fighting over your assets; your surviving spouse not having enough money to live on; irresponsible spending by a beneficiary; an inheritance becoming part of a beneficiary’s divorce proceedings; an inheritance not making it to the intended beneficiary (i.e., left to an adult for the benefit of a minor); and an inheritance not being used according to your values and beliefs.

What You Need to Know: Not addressing these risks can cause you pain, worry, frustration, anxiety, fear and anguish. And, if any of these awful things should happen to you or a loved one, your quality of life can suffer.

Why Use Trusts for Your Broader Financial and Wealth Planning?
There are many different trusts that can be used to address a wide range of your circumstances, needs, anxieties, and aspirations. Take a simple but important example of trusts’ capabilities: the living trust. Most people want to avoid court interference at incapacity (i.e., disability) and at death, and a living trust solves this worry. When you establish a living trust, you transfer your assets to it and select someone to step in and manage them for you when you are not able to do so. Because the assets are no longer in your name, the court has no reason to get involved at either incapacity or death; your successor can manage your assets according to your instructions for as long as necessary.

More broadly, trusts can hold investments, property and insurance policies, with benefits of reducing various taxes and protecting your wealth from lawsuits and creditors. A trust can continue beyond your lifetime—assets can be kept in a trust until your beneficiaries reach the age(s) you want them to inherit, to provide for a loved one with special needs, or to protect an inheritance from beneficiaries’ creditors, spouses and future death taxes. A trust will also let you provide for your surviving spouse without disinheriting your children.

What You Need to Know: Trusts, in their various forms, offer you a robust package of dollar and quality-of-life benefits. And, trusts are fully compatible with your various investments and assets, from mutual funds to stocks (both public and private) to insurance policies to property.

Actions to Consider
• Become aware of the financial, wealth and estate planning risks you and your family face, and how they can be managed or completely avoided with the use of trusts.
o An advisor and trust/estate planning attorney will be able to help you become an informed consumer.
• List the fears and anxieties you have for yourself and your loved ones concerning your wealth.
• Compare the costs associated with planning and implementation to the financial and emotional value you will receive.
o Keep in mind that while trusts have set-up costs, overall costs can be less over time by avoiding court expenses and delays, saving on a variety of taxes, eliminating exposure to legal costs, and so forth.
• Life insurance inside a trust is an excellent way to provide a larger inheritance for your loved ones.
• If you are a business owner, investigate the many benefits that trusts can provide for your business wealth.
• Don’t procrastinate. Trusts have as much application for the living as for those who pass on. Put your plan into effect now based on your current circumstances, and then make changes as needed. Acting now will give you the peace of mind you desire.

Personal Risk Management, Part 1: Insurance

Personal risk management is being aware of the risks in your home and in your life, and then planning how to handle those risks. Insurance plays a big part in managing risk. Most people don’t like paying insurance premiums, but when something happens and the insurance pays for a covered expense, they are relieved they had it.

The Key Takeaways
• Not recognizing and managing risk can set your family up for financial ruin.
• Recognizing and managing risk will give you and your family the freedom to live life, without worrying about how you would handle a catastrophic loss.

What kinds of risks should I be aware of?
Property and casualty risks include your car and other vehicles, home and furnishings, jewelry, cameras, and so forth. You would want to protect these from accidents, theft, fire, flood, and earthquake damage. Health and long-term care insurance help protect your finances if you become ill or injured. Disability income and life insurance help replace income in the event of a long-term illness or death. If you volunteer with children or youth, you may need personal liability insurance. An increase to your umbrella policy is warranted once you have teenage drivers. If you are a business owner, you may need insurance as part of a buy-sell agreement with a key employee or business partner in addition to business liability insurance. If you are in a high-risk profession (like health care, construction or real estate), you will probably need additional asset protection planning.

How much insurance do I need?
You need enough insurance to protect your assets in the worst-case scenario. At the same time, the premiums should be an amount you can comfortably afford in your budget. Decide what you need to insure, how much to insure it for, and how much you are able and willing to pay in deductibles and premiums.

What You Need to Know
Your family’s needs for insurance will change over time and will reflect your values at each stage in life. For example, you may need more life insurance when your children are young; you may want long-term care insurance as you near retirement (although it is less expensive when you are younger); you may not need as much personal liability insurance if you retire from volunteering or once your children become independent; and you may not need business insurance if you sell your business.

Actions to Consider
• Look at ways you can reduce premiums. For example, installing a home security alarm system or trimming shrubbery may save on your homeowner’s insurance. If you drive an older car, you may not need collision insurance. If you can handle higher deductibles, your premiums will likely be lower.
• Look for ways to reduce risk entirely. For example, you may want to sell a property that is high risk or even retire from a high-risk profession.
• Some risk may be perfectly acceptable to you. Consider what you might lose if the worst happens and see if you could live with the loss. This is called risk budgeting.
• Keep good records on personal property. Review the values and your insurance coverage annually. Values fluctuate, and you don’t want to over- or under-insure.
• Determine what you would lose if someone sued you with a liability claim. You worked hard to build your net worth and you do not want to lose wealth if someone files a claim against you. Even if it is a frivolous claim, you may have to spend a small fortune to defend yourself. Take action to protect your assets for yourself and your family.
• Health care and long-term care costs are increasing at an alarming pace, people are living longer, and many older Americans have seen their retirement savings decline in recent down markets. A professional can help you evaluate your health care risks and determine how to plan for them.

How to Choose a Trustee

When you establish a trust, you name someone to be the trustee. A trustee basically does what you do right now with your financial affairs—collect income, pay bills and taxes, save and invest for the future, buy and sell assets, provide for your loved ones, keep accurate records and generally keep things organized and in good order.

The Key Takeaways
• You can be trustee of your revocable living trust. If you are married, your spouse can be co-trustee.
• Most irrevocable trusts do not allow you to be trustee.
• Even though you may be allowed to be your own trustee, you may not be the best choice.
• You can also choose an adult child, trusted friend or a professional or corporate trustee.
• Naming someone else to be co-trustee with you helps them become familiar with your trust, allows them to learn firsthand how you want the trust to operate, and lets you evaluate the co-trustee’s abilities.

Who Can Be Your Trustee
If you have a revocable living trust, you can be your own trustee. If you are married, your spouse can be trustee with you. This way, if either of you become incapacitated or die, the other can continue to handle your financial affairs without interruption. Most married couples who own assets together, especially those who have been married for some time, are usually co-trustees.

You don’t have to be your own trustee. Some people choose an adult son or daughter, a trusted friend or another relative. Some like having the experience and investment skills of a professional or corporate trustee (e.g., a bank trust department or trust company). Naming someone else as trustee or co-trustee with you does not mean you lose control. The trustee you name must follow the instructions in your trust and report to you. You can even replace your trustee should you change your mind.

When to Consider a Professional or Corporate Trustee
You may be elderly, widowed, and/or in declining health and have no children or other trusted relatives living nearby. Or your candidates may not have the time or ability to manage your trust. You may simply not have the time, desire or experience to manage your investments by yourself. Also, certain irrevocable trusts will not allow you to be trustee. In these situations, a professional or corporate trustee may be exactly what you need: they have the experience, time and resources to manage your trust and help you meet your investment goals.

What You Need to Know
Professional or corporate trustees will charge a fee to manage your trust, but generally the fee it is quite reasonable, especially when you consider their experience, services provided and investment returns.

Actions to Consider
* Honestly evaluate if you are the best choice to be your own trustee. Someone else may truly do a better job than you, especially in managing your assets.
* Name someone to be co-trustee with you now. This would eliminate the time a successor would need to become knowledgeable about your trust, your assets, and the needs and personalities of your beneficiaries. It would also let you evaluate if the co-trustee is the right choice to manage the trust in your absence.
* Evaluate your trustee candidates carefully and realistically.
* If you are considering a professional or corporate trustee, talk to several. Compare their services, investment returns and fees.