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Estate planning and end-of-life care

Retirees flock to Florida to get away from cold climates in their golden years, but eventually most will have to cope with a decline in health. An estate plan can be an essential part of financial planning for the elderly and address much more than who inherits assets. Financial experts recommend that estate plans address how assets will be used for long-term care. Additionally, a medical directive should be prepared that assigns someone to make health care decisions if a person becomes incapacitated.

Planning for the possibility of long-term care in the final years of life could allow a person to designate wishes like the desire for in-home care instead of nursing home care. To pay for in-home care, the estate plan could earmark assets for that purpose. Alternatively, if a person elects to accept living in a nursing home, then the cost of that service could be addressed as well.

With a medical directive, a person could spare family members from having no legal means of making decisions without intervention from a court. When no documentation exists that declares who can make medical decisions for an incapacitated person, then a court must step in and make that determination. The family would have to pay court fees and not necessarily have control of the outcome.

Aside from medical needs, a power of attorney could be used to name a person who will handle financial matters for an incapacitated person. Typically a combination of estate planning documents creates a comprehensive expression of a person's final wishes. A person could consult with an attorney to develop an estate plan. The attorney might interview the person regarding various needs like long-term care and asset protection and then develop legal strategies for achieving the client's goals.

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