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The importance of living wills and long term care planning

Washington residents who plan their estates must decide how to distribute or preserve assets after they pass away, but they sometimes neglect to plan for what happens in the last phases of their life. Planning for long term care and end of life care can be crucial for preserving assets so that they can be passed on to heirs and beneficiaries.

Medicare does not pay for long term care services such as at-home assistants, assisted living and nursing home care. It can pay for some medically related nursing care after medical treatment, but seniors will have to come up with their own plan to pay the very pricey bills related to their every day care. When people don't have a plan to pay for this kind of care, their assets can easily be eaten up until there's nothing left to pass on to their loved ones.

It's also important to remember the fact that wills and other traditional estate planning instruments don't go into effect until after death. This means that decisions about end-of-life care must be made in a different document.

Washington residents can make these decisions in a living will, which is designed to represent the person's wishes once he or she is no longer able to consciously express them. These can be extremely important in cases when a person suffers a sudden illness or accident. Loved ones may have a vague idea of what the person would have wanted, but a living will makes these wishes clear and legally enforceable. It also takes the pressure off loved ones to make these painful decisions.

Washington residents should consider making a living will and long term care planning part of their basic estate plan. These are subjects many people would rather not think about, but taking care of them in advance can make sure their requests are heard and met and save trouble and heartache later for their loved ones.

Source: AARP Blog, "Medicare Does Not Pay for Long-Term Care," Harriet Komisar, Aug. 22, 2013

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