Taking Care of Your Spouse After You Are Gone
Compliments of The Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
Family often ends up providing the bulk of care to those who suffer from incapacitating illnesses and injuries, with the AARP’s Public Policy Institute estimating that one in five family caregivers is a spouse. These spousal caregivers provide assistance with things like medical and nursing care, wound care and medication management. For example, there are more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 15.5 million caregivers are providing 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to someone with Alzheimer’s. The value of these unpaid hours of care exceeds $220 billion per year.
Additionally, another 795,000 people suffer a stroke each year. A person has a stroke approximately once every 40 seconds in the United States, according to The Internet Stroke Center.
Strokes and Alzheimer’s are just two of many medical conditions that can leave a person unable to care for themselves. Unfortunately, because spousal caregivers are often close in age, there is significant risk that the caregiver will become incapacitated or will pass away before the person for whom he or she is caring. It is important to plan ahead in case this day occurs.
Preparing for Continuing Care and Medical Assistance
Ensuring that a disabled or incapacitated family member will continue to be cared for after the death of a spousal caregiver is something in which the entire family will likely play a role. An estate planning and elder law attorney should also be consulted to provide advice and assistance with legal steps that need to be taken. For example:
- A Special Needs Trust may be created in order to provide ongoing financial support to a disabled individual without disqualifying them from government benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medi-Cal. A Special Needs Trust can allow the assets to benefit the disabled person without jeopardizing their government benefits.
- Medi-Cal Planning may help protect the assets of seniors in the event they need long-term care. However, effective planning must start far in advance. Any gifts within five years of needing Medi-Cal incur steep penalties.
These are just a few key things that you may wish to consider to ensure that a loved one with disabilities will be taken care of, even if a caregiver spouse has passed away or is no longer able to manage. Speak to an estate planning and elder law attorney about the specifics of your situation to learn more about options that are available for protecting your family’s future.