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Strategies for handling the high costs of old age

Many Washington residents think of estate planning as something that only comes in useful after they die. Certainly, a will or a trust can carry out a deceased person's wishes and provide for their loved ones, but estate planning can also involve preparations for events that will occur while one is still alive.

Some of the most important such preparations fall under the category of long term care planning. Americans are living longer than they did in the past, and often requiring care for longer periods of time. As with so many aspects of American medicine, elder care can be extremely expensive. By some accounts, nursing homes now average around $80,000 per year, which can quickly take a chunk out of the estate one wishes to leave to loved ones.

There are many ways to plan for these costs, including through different types of insurance, trusts and asset based plans that provide an annuity.

Another somewhat controversial strategy involves giving away large portions of an estate in the form of gifts before one requires long term care. With careful planning and some luck, those who choose this strategy can avoid losing some of their fortunes to gift taxes while also reducing their assets enough to qualify for Medicare when they need it. The controversial aspect of this move, of course, is that some of the people who attempt this technique arguably don't really need the help of taxpayer-funded Medicare to pay their long term care bills.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, Washingtonians should also create a living will. These documents provide instructions for medical and other concerns should the person become incapacitated by illness or injury.

There are many factors to consider when crafting a plan for long-term care. A Washington estate planning attorney can help clients to weigh their options and craft a plan that fits their needs and wishes.

Source: Daily Finance, "Will End-of-Life Expenses Eat Up Your Estate?" John Jamieson, May 5, 2014

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