Some Kent residents may be familiar with certain free or low-cost estate planning tools and wondering if those tools are adequate to meet their individual estate planning needs. One popular example is the "Five Wishes" package that may be offered as a form of living will to participants in certain Medicare supplemental insurance programs. This particular document package may meet the legal requirements for a valid living will in many states, but financial planning experts warn seniors against believing that similar free tools provide a comprehensive solution to long-term care planning.
Kent residents may not be surprised by the results of a survey of terminally ill cancer patients that sought to determine which factors most affected a person's perception of the quality of end-of-life experiences. The most important factors identified by study participants were to avoid dying in a hospital, to avoid extreme life-sustaining procedures and to be treated with respect by their doctors. While a patient may have little ability to change a doctor's bedside manners, long term care planning can help make sure that end-of-life wishes are heard and met.
As Kent residents may know, an increasing number of Americans find themselves spending at least part of their retirement years without a spouse. Some will fly solo through retirement due to divorce or the death of a husband or wife. Others simply choose never to marry. Although people commonly think about estate planning in terms of providing for their heirs, estate planning and long-term care planning may be equally if not more important for singles.
Seattle residents may remember Mike Wallace as the 60 Minutes news correspondent who commanded America's attention on some of the nation's most important stories over the course of a 60-year career. The venerable journalist's recent death at 93 years of age tells a story once again, and serves as a reminder of the importance of long term care planning.
Last week's post, "Estate plans for King County's changing needs," reminded readers in the Seattle area about the importance of long-term care planning as American life expectancy continues to increase. A recent study about conflicting attitudes among doctors regarding end-of-life care further illustrates the importance of thoughtful and comprehensive estate planning as it relates to carrying out end-of-life wishes.
King County readers may recall a previous post on this blog discussing the surprising percentage of Americans without wills. Even if King County stands ahead of the national curve when it comes to having wills prepared, area residents and Washingtonians on the whole are likely to face a variety of complicated estate planning challenges.
Washington residents may be aware of the crisis in long-term care insurance. U.S. legislators have been debating over how to address the problem, since about 10 million Americans currently need long-term care, and 15 million Americans are expected to need long-term care by 2020. Despite those staggering numbers, only 8 percent of U.S. citizens purchase private long-term care insurance.
For many Washington residents, caring for loved ones with special needs may be especially difficult in these tough economic times. In addition to the cost of care, all manner of other bills are piling up. However, experts say that, as difficult as it may seem, families that are providing for loved ones with special needs should also do their best to plan for the long term. Doing so is a good idea not only for loved ones with special needs but also for the caregivers' retirement. For example, advance directives, end-of-life wishes, and a living will should all be considered when estate planning becomes a reality.One of the more important reasons people are now seeking estate planning for those with special needs is that the bad economy has resulted in reduced incomes for caregivers, as jobs have been lost or hours cut. This reduction in income can make things very difficult for many families, especially those that are caring for loved ones. Estate planning allows families to get control over what they may be facing in the future, as well as make plans to address those issues.
A living will expresses a person's exact wishes for medical care if he or she is unable to communicate with physicians. But since middle-aged individuals, including many Seattle residents, still feel very young and healthy, such end-of-life documents would seem to be something that people in their middle ages wouldn't be too concerned about. With that in mind, Washington residents may be interested in a recent poll that found that 64 percent of baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, said they don't have a living will.Yet, regardless of age or health, carefully spelling out one's end-of-life wishes can be a good idea for anyone. A living will enables individuals to say just how much or how little they want in medical treatment if they are in a state in which they cannot speak for themselves. A living will can also spare families otherwise painful decisions regarding the application or withdrawal of medical treatment.
Many Seattle residents have probably heard at least one horror story of the financial abuse of an elder. Unfortunately, these issues are becoming more common with an increasing growth in the elder population. Recent reports have highlighted a service extended for a short time in early November to assist elders with financial advice that could prevent this kind of financial abuse and create positive benefits, one of which being the preservation of a living will.