FinancialPlanner-1-1I 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?

Caregiving: Keeping It Real2. 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.

To learn more about elder care financial planning, contact Kathleen Clark* here or visit her website here.

* 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.

Further reading:

6 Financial Planning Mistakes to Avoid

14 Great Financial Planning Tools

Have you sought the services of a financial planner as a caregiver? How did they help you?

5 Comments

  1. Seth Ashford

    Thanks for sharing this! My mother and I are actually planning out her senior life, and deciding whether she would want to be in senior care and other things like that. I did not even think of expenses. I will make sure to go over this post with her, and we will be able to rest easy knowing that we have everything planned out.

    Seth Ashford | http://comforcare.com/florida/palm-beach-gardens

  2. Felix

    Nice article! It has a good structure to getting your parents help. Caregivers are expensive.. Talking about it with your family and deciding the best choices are important.

  3. Anne Hays Egan (@AnneHaysNM)

    Excellent, very practical advice. We were able to have mother agree to provide Power of Attorney to us for specific financial, estate and health issues, which allowed us to minimize adverse financial impact. Like you, we wish we’d been involved sooner, but our “wake up call” was when she spent $12,000 for a roofing job she didn’t really need, but was impressed with the “nice young men” who came by the house. We also had her brokerage accounts listed in her name and our names, with a Transfer on Death provision, which saved a lot on taxes.

  4. Terri Caldwell

    Excellent article! We experienced the result of NOT doing this with our parents. Because of that, we too try to encourage that people do these things. The part that is missing so often, is having a documented plan that is shared with those who will need to execute it when the time comes. That’s why we created SafelyFiled.com. It’s a very secure, yet very easy to use tool to document, store and share these types of records. With SafelyMD, you always have your medical records and information with you, or with our elderly parents, to include a list of RX drugs. That form can be downloaded, printed out and taken with you to the Dr or a card can be accessed by emergency personnel if you can’t answer medical questions yourself. This is SO important.

  5. Kelly Jessica

    Very informative article for senior people

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