When we meet with families to discuss options, we must look at the situation as it is now and provide the options for moving forward. That can present a challenge when the family seems focused on what “could have been” or “should have been” at some point in the past.
I recently met with a family that was facing the challenge of a love one’s admission to a nursing home. The loved one had lived alone for many years, and enjoyed good health. Unfortunately, a recent fall spiraled into generally declining health, and some loss of cognitive functions. The bottom line is that she wasn’t going tobe able togo back to the life she had been living. For her safety and health, the decision was made to look at nursing home options upon her release from the hospital.
The family came to us to discover “the real story” of getting her qualified for Medicaid benefits. Despite having a small nest-egg, the cost of long-term care would leave her penniless in a very short time. We discussed the options available, and our calculations indicated that, with proper planning, we could protect about 2/3 of her nest egg and get her qualified for benefits. All of which I thought was great news!
The family disagreed. This was not great news to them. You see, their loved one had met with an attorney almost 10 years prior to set up her Estate Plan. She had all the elements, including Power of Attorney, Appointment of Health Care Representative, Revocable Living Trust, etc. A solid Estate Plan, but not an asset protection plan designed specifically to protect her nest egg against the cost of long term care. This is where things went astray. The family became so focused on the “what if …” that they were unable to see the benefit of planning now.
They started asking questions along the lines of “what if that attorney had set up a different kind of trust, would her nest egg be safe today?” Of course, the answer to that question is “yes.” The point is that the question is irrelevant to the current situation. We can spend days speculating on what was on her mind 10 years ago, and what conversations took place between their loved one and her attorney (who has since retired). We can speculate further and extend into the dollars that would have been protected, or the saved cost of creating a plan now. We can lament the lack of foresight and missed opportunity. But none of it matters!
The reality is the reality. We cannot go back in time and change the decisions we made. I’m sure we’ve all made decisions that we would love to have the opportunity to change. We cannot do so. And until time travel is successfully invented, there is little to be gained from lamenting past decisions or actions. We must move forward. See the benefit that can be achieved now, and take advantage of the opportunity to save 2/3 of that nest egg.
Stop looking backwards … you’re not going that way.
Susan Hunter, Esq.