Each year, thousands of Americans are thrust into the uncomfortable role of making long-term care decisions for their family members. These emotional decisions may create stressful situations for the entire family in addition to being time-consuming and expensive.
Discussing plans for long-term care before the need arises can greatly reduce the stress that may arise while dealing with an illness or disability.
Here are some questions that families should ask regarding a long-term care strategy:
• Where and how you would like care delivered?
• The level of independence you’d like to maintain.
• The role you’d like your family to play in your care.
• How you want to fund your care, while protecting your assets.
Clear communication can help eliminate the problem of catching a spouse or adult child off guard. Spelling out the location of important documents, as well as care wishes, ensures that family members have the information they need to provide for their loved one’s desired care.
Create a financial and care inventory
It is also important to update family members on the location and status of financial and care documents. Having an inventory of these documents provides family members with a roadmap to critical information. The inventory is not a legal document, and it need not divulge personal or confidential details you are not prepared to share.
This inventory should be updated at least annually, and copies given to family members, a lawyer or executor — or placed in a secure location where those who might need it can access it.
While each family’s inventory will differ, the inventory should include information related to where someone can find the following:
• Living wills/health care directives.
• Insurance and other contracts (health, life, long-term care, annuities, auto, homeowners, etc.)
• Wills, trusts and deeds.
• Bank accounts and investment accounts.
• Credit card accounts and other outstanding debt.
• Contact information for lawyers, accountants, brokers, agents.
• Jewelry and other valuables.
• Essential keys.
• Instructions related to funeral arrangements.
• Personal instructions or messages.
• Location of birth, marriage and military discharge certificates.
• Information related to charitable gifts.
While it may be a difficult topic, open and honest communication about your long-term care strategy can be one of the best ways to prepare for a stress-free financial future.
Information provided by Duane Faas, Kirt Till and David Sparrey, Heartland Associates, 315 Sixth St., Suite 100, Ames, (515) 292-7077.