Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin

Editor: W. Patrick Tandy

April, 2004

 

Long-Term Care: A Critical Issue for Attorney Advisors

By Sally H. Leimbach

When the cost of nursing home or facility care reaches $80,000 per year, even wealthy people notice. When it is not planned for in advance, that level of expenditure can be a real eye-opener. It can also put a few new wrinkles in your clients’ financial plans. As a trusted advisor, you may assist in their financial planning and provide them with valuable guidance in managing their retirement resources. Not addressing their possible need for long term care could jeopardize a carefully constructed and implemented financial plan.

What You Can Do

1.  Bring up the subject of long-term care.

2.  Provide some necessary education about long-term care so clients will understand the issues and potential risks. These risks are not only financial but may also include emotional impact on families and whether or not they will have choice in and access to quality care.

3.  Remind your clients that long-term care does not mean nursing home care. Long-term care is the type of help needed when one isn’t able to perform daily activities such as eating, bathing and dressing by one’s self. Most long-term care is maintenance or “custodial care,” which generally isn’t covered by familiar forms of health insurance or retiree health plans, Medicare or Medicaid.

4.  Discuss the pros and cons of alternatives available to address long-term care needs:

  • Using one’s own income and assets to pay for long term care
  • Looking to one’s spouse, family or others for donations of time or money towards the needed care
  • Alternative mortgage strategies
  • Long-term care insurance

Educate your clients regarding the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative. Some are more proactive than others. For example, long-term care insurance helps to make long term care a definable expense in your financial plan – that expense being the premium cost for the insurance (plus any portion of the care that an individual chooses not to insure, such as the waiting period and/or a portion of the actual cost of care). Long-term care insurance only makes sense if the policy design is tailored to address the specific needs of an individual’s financial plan. An experienced long term care insurance specialist can provide you and your client with valuable assistance in this regard.

Long-term care planning is important for everyone: young, old, rich or poor. As with the ostrich with his head in the sand, avoiding planning for it will not change the facts. A recent USA Today article cited that by 2035 (the year the first baby boomers turn 89), the number of Americans over age 70 will be 57 million. A Boston Globe article relayed that by 2015 cancer will be classified as a chronic illness. Americans are living longer. With this longer life expectancy comes the responsibility to plan for long-term care needs.

Are You Up to Speed on Long-Term Care Insurance?

It is a rapidly evolving marketplace. If you haven’t reviewed the particulars recently, now may be the time. Examples of changes include increased premiums on newly approved products and more stringent underwriting. A recent Kiplinger supplement stated, “The market for long-term-care insurance is undergoing dramatic changes as costs for care soar and insurers rethink policy offerings and pricing.” The article went on to recommend, “[I]f you are 50 or older and have considered buying long-term-care insurance, you might want to think about buying it sooner than planned. Today’s policies may be the best they will ever be.”

Products are still available from well-respected, financially strong insurance companies. Proper design of these products can provide a missing piece to complete an otherwise sound financial plan.

TLC, Not LTC

To allow families to cope with and even enjoy the fact that elderly or disabled family members are living longer, it is imperative to have a plan to allow them to provide tender loving care (TLC), not long-term care (LTC). There is enough stress in providing TLC as a family member declines; providing LTC can be many times more physically and mentally exhausting.

The Bottom Line: Plan for Long-Term Care

Do you own long-term care insurance? If not, be sure you understood all the facts before reaching your own conclusion. The bottom line is not necessarily owning long-term care insurance but rather having a plan for long-term care and, as a professional, helping your clients to implement a plan for long-term care.

Sally H. Leimbach, CLU, CEBS, LTCP, is a long-term care insurance specialist and an associate with FranklinMorris, coordinating broker for the Bar Associations Insurance Agency, Inc.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: April, 2004

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