Where There's Not a Will, There's a Way
Tuesday July 11, 2000
According to the AARP: Sixty percent of age 50+ Americans have a will, 23% have a living trust, and 45% have a durable power of attorney. Only 17% have all three, while 36% have none of these legal documents. ("Where there is a will... Legal Documents Among the 50+ Population: Findings from an AARP Survey," AARP, April 2000, download at: http://www.research.aarp.org/econ/will.html) The AARP report recommends "targeting a public awareness campaign to younger people in [the] age spectrum, to those with low household incomes, and to people with a high school education or less on the importance of having these legal documents to protect themselves and their families." (p. 8)
Just as these legal documents are important to people of all ages and incomes (although living trusts may have dubious merit, at least in some states), so are other forms of planning ahead such as preparing for the risk of long-term care. Long-term care insurance, for example, protects against catastrophic long-term care costs and ensures access to a wide range of quality services such as home care and assisted living that may not otherwise be available. In this context, we encourage LTC specialists and attorneys to work together to assure that their mutual clientele are protected for the future.
For example, LTC specialists should know that every senior needs a will and a durable power of attorney (DPA) appointing an agent for financial matters if the senior becomes unable to manage his or her own affairs. If an LTC specialist protects a client against his or her biggest risk-catastrophic long-term care expenses-but leaves the same person unrepresented and potentially intestate, the specialist has missed an opportunity to better serve the client and grow his or her professional network.
To qualify prospects medically and financially, LTC specialists have to learn a lot of very personal information about them. Aware that almost half of their prospects lack wills and DPAs, LTC specialists can add value to the ervice they're providing by asking each of them if they are among the many thus unprotected. If so, LTC specialists can offer a referral to a trusted estate planning attorney. After awhile, the attorney receiving these referrals, will probably return the favor by referring healthy, financially qualified clients for long-term care insurance protection.
Caveat: LTC specialists should make sure not to send prospects and clients into the "Medicaid trap." Attorneys who artificially impoverish clients to qualify them for public assistance should be avoided.