Get the proper documents in place now and know that they’ll work when needed

By James Ward

Will you wait too long before you get the proper legal documents put in place to protect yourself and your family? If you already have an estate plan, will you wait too long before you have it reviewed by a qualified elder law attorney to make sure it’s adequate? Will your plan really do the job for you when you need it?

Having no plan is like driving cross country with no spare tire. Having an inadequate plan is like driving cross country full of confidence that you have a spare tire in the trunk in case you need it, but not realizing that the spare tire you have won’t fit on your car. What good is it then?

I was recently contacted by a woman who desperately needed help to protect the family assets. Her husband was in a nursing facility and his care was costing her $14,500 each month. She was still healthy and working, but at this expense rate their savings would soon be depleted.

If their savings were depleted, how would she live in her later years? She was in her late 60s and could easily live another 15 to 20 years. Would she have to sell her house and move away just to survive?

The couple had two separate estate plans. Both would have worked fine if either the husband or wife suddenly died, but their plans wouldn’t work to protect the assets during a period of incapacitation.

The husband’s dementia was so far advanced he could not sign legal documents to protect the family assets, and the assets were being depleted bit by bit.

I work with a lot of good estate planning attorneys, but the best of them will admit that they are not at all familiar with elder law and Medi-Cal requirements, so they don’t know what needs to be done to fully protect their clients in the event of incapacitation.

How will the family cover the costs of long-term care? Just pay out of pocket for the same facility where they could have the government helping pay most of the costs?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re covered and then find out after someone is incapacitated that their assets cannot be protected. Don’t leave it until it’s too late. Get the proper documents in place now and know that they’ll work when needed.

James Ward

Jim Ward is a longtime South Valley resident who resides in Morgan Hill. He went to law school in New England and obtained a post-graduate law degree in Estate Planning at the University of Miami. Jim worked as an Estate Planning and Elder Law attorney in Florida, and then returned home to open his law firm focusing on Estate Planning and Elder Law. He maintains offices in South Valley and another in Willow Glen.
James Ward