WILL END OF LIFE EXPENSES DEVOUR YOUR ESTATE?

For aging baby boomers, long-term care and home health care are huge concerns, and these concerns form the last part in a series of articles covering what I call the “six circles of wealth.” These six circles break down your personal finance and wealth creation efforts. The goal is to have all of the circles spin at the same time, creating synergy and powerful momentum for your money.

Very few of my clients have all the circles covered, which means your wealth will take longer to grow and be open to much more risk than is necessary. So far, I have covered the first four: income and cash flow, investments, guaranteed income and cash and liquidity. This article discusses the last two: long-term care and your estate.

Drwelderlypatient

The only circle that can cannibalize the others is long-term care. It is also the circle that is most neglected, and most people’s plan for dealing with it is hope and prayer. Most people say “I won’t get that bad where I need a facility or a nurse to come in and help me” or “my family will help me with all of my needs” and even “if I get that bad, just pull the plug or shoot me and put me out of my misery.” Do any of these sound familiar?

Long-term care facilities average $7,200 a month, and according to Genworth Financial, costs are increasing more than 4 percent a year. How long could your nest egg last paying out more than $80,000 per year in today’s dollars? Many people might consider buying a long-term care insurance policy. The American Association of Long-Term Care Insurance says a policy for a 55-year-old costs $723 to $1,590 a year, depending upon benefits — and these figures are from 2009. As with most insurance, if you never need it, your family will not get your premiums back after you pass away.

Asset Reduction Via Estate Planning

One alternative is estate planning, which needs to be done with a quality legal firm that specializes in estate planning and elder law. There are ways to structure your estate that will lessen any blow that you might incur from the cost of long-term care. These usually involve getting rid of assets via gifts and trusts — years before you need long-term care — so when you have to sell off assets before Medicare kicks in its contribution for long-term care, you don’t have many assets left to sell.

This type of planning is controversial because it is seen as pushing the tab on the government even if you have the ability to pay for yourself. So unless you were smart enough to have a quality life insurance product that you bought many years ago, you could be leave nothing behind for your family. Since the traditional financial world tells us to buy term insurance and not whole life, most people will stop paying for expensive term policies as they age because the cost becomes prohibitive. Thus when they are faced with long-term care issues, they must cannibalize their estate or reduce the estate before they have need long-term care. My job isn’t to pass judgment but to pass along the information and let your conscience be your guide.

Asset-Based Long-Term Care

Another alternative is to allocate some of your funds into products that are built to help you with the cost of long-term care. Asset-based long-term care might be as simple as putting some of your money inside of a properly structured annuity. Let’s say you spend $150,000 on a long-term care annuity where you were credited with a 3-1 benefit ratio. Your $150,000 buys you $450,000 of long-term care protection if and when you need the coverage.

What if you never need the coverage and pass away at home in your bed? Then the $150,000 in that account will be part of your estate and given to your family, plus a small rate of growth. Maybe only 3 percent growth, but remember you are not doing this for growth. You have other circles of wealth that are concerned with growth and returns. This is a long-term care and estate planning strategy. You sleep well at night and maintain control of your cash, and if you never need the benefit, your family receives the money plus growth.

Whole Life Insurance

Many of our clients in their 40s, 50s and even into their 60s also set up a high-quality whole life insurance policy. This provides the estate guarantee they want for their kids and grand-kids so if they need to sell off assets to pay for care, they still leave behind their legacy for their family.

One of my favorite books is by Harvey Mackay is called “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.” These words are even truer when dealing with long term care and your legacy.

Check out The Perpetual Wealth System to learn more!

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