I don’t regret a whole lot about the eight years I was my mother’s caregiver, but one thing I wish I had done differently is I wish I had sought the advice of a financial planner. Today’s guest post about financial planning may help you avoid some of the mistakes I made.
When my mother was living in a memory care facility with the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, she ran out of savings and I applied for her to go on Medicaid. Her application was denied because of an error I made when I sold her home, an error which ended up costing my family a great deal of money. I wish I had known enough back then to consult not only an attorney familiar with Medicaid rules in our state (which I did), but also a financial planner who could have helped me plan ahead and avoid costly missteps.
Today I am pleased to share with you a guest post from financial planner Kathleen Clark of S.E.E.D. Financial Strategies. Kathleen and I recently spoke together on a panel about elder care at a case management conference. She has guided many family caregivers through the following steps to financial well-being:
6 Tips for Eldercare Financial Planning: What Every Caregiver Needs to Know
By Kathleen Clark, Financial Planner and Wealth Manager, S.E.E.D. Financial Strategies
Becoming a caregiver to a loved one is undoubtedly a tough job, one that many of us have already taken on or will take on in the future. Anyone who has been in that role can share stories about how emotionally overwhelming it is, how you will become inundated with information as the keeper of the person’s schedule, doctors’ appointments and medications, and as their advocate and researcher, all the while remaining their loved one. Often an area that does not receive the proper amount of attention is gaining knowledge about when and how to help your loved one with their finances and to understand what may happen to their finances as their need for care progresses. Below are some helpful tips for those in an elder caregiver role.
1. Start the conversation now
Money is often a taboo topic in many families, but it does not have to be. If there is any chance you could become a caregiver for a parent or family member, begin the conversation now to start to learn about their financial situation.
Consider these questions:
- What are their asset levels and their ability to pay for care?
- Where does their income come from?
- How are their assets titled (i.e., who owns the assets)?
- Have they have done any planning to pay for the costs of elder care?
- Do they have long-term care insurance?
2. Find out what is important to your loved one
Talk to your loved one about what they’d prefer in the event that they have to receive care:
- Are they insistent that they be able to stay in their home?
- Is it important to them that they are not a burden to their children?
- Are they comfortable with the thought of moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home?
You may not be able to provide everything exactly as your loved one wants, but this information could help you in the future to understand why they may feel frustrated.
3. Seek financial advice
One step that many caregivers overlook is seeking financial advice from a financial planner who is experienced in elder care planning. Financial planners come in many different flavors, and the type of advice they are able to give is contingent on the licenses they hold. We recommend that you work with a “fee for service” planner rather than someone who provides advice for “free” as long as they are managing your assets. A “fee for service” financial planner is licensed to provide advice or recommendations in exchange for a predetermined fee and is legally bound to provide unbiased advice that is in the best interest of their client, rather than being paid a commission to manage assets.
The financial planner will help you understand which of your loved one’s assets may need to be liquidated to pay for care, the order in which this should happen, and how long the assets are calculated to last in various situations. If it is calculated that your loved one may eventually require assistance from Medicaid to pay for care, your planner could be invaluable in helping to implement strategies which assist in preserving assets and/or income. They may also be able to identify tax management strategies during Medicaid’s asset “spend down” or liquidation process. The financial planner should help to make sure that beneficiary designations on all accounts are correct and up to date.
4. Seek legal advice
Another step which is often missed in elder care planning is seeking the assistance of an elder law attorney in the state in which your loved one resides. It is important to work with a professional who is well versed in elder care laws specific to that state. The attorney can help to make sure that your loved one has up-to-date legal documents: a will, power of attorney, health care proxy and living will. An elder law attorney can also advise as to when it may be appropriate to apply for Medicaid, and may even help with the process. You should expect your attorney and financial planner to work with each other to ensure that all planning is coordinated.
5. Know where financial documents are located
Find out now where your loved one keeps their insurance policies, statements for investments and/or banking accounts, as well as legal documents. We recommend that you also keep a list with contact information for the professionals with whom your loved one works.
6. Consider how your caregiver role will impact your finances
Will you be missing work to attend doctors’ appointments? Will you have out-of-pocket expenses associated with caring for your loved one? It is best to consider now how your family’s personal finances may be affected, and to communicate now with your spouse, siblings, etc., to avoid potential future conflicts or surprises.
* Registered representative offering securities and investment advisory services through Cetera Advisors, LLC member FINRA/SIPC. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity.