Statistically, women outlive men. That means that the estate plan, or lack of estate plan, will often be played out by us. If there is no will, no power of attorney, no trust protecting our assets, women are often left holding the bag, with no good results. Often women do not manage the money side of things, and when pushed into that role by the illness or death of a spouse, all the grief and dislocation can be magnified by a sense of panic – needing to deal immediately with complex legal and financial concepts which can have long term consequences – sometimes impacting the rest of our lives.
Educate yourself, find an estate planning lawyer that you trust, and who can explain your options. Find a financial planner, again, someone you trust, who will take the time to explain things until they really make sense. Know who you want to call when you need them; don’t be in the position of having to find an advisor when you are desperate. Put a plan in place. This can be easier than you think, and while there will be some costs involved, consider what could happen without any planning. An old plan (you know the one you did when the kids were little) may not work now that you are 62 and thinking about retirement.
Start planning now, before there is a crisis, and save yourself money, stress and time.
Fidelity Investments recently released a report heralding an 8% drop in medical expenses that a couple retiring in 2011 would expect to pay. See Full Report. That’s good news, the bad news is that this is still expected to top $230,000 and that’s a number that’s likely to grow. A visit to your retirement planner is in order if you aren’t factoring this into your savings. If you need names of reputable financial advisors who specialize in retirement planning, I’m happy to share the names of those I work with here on the North Shore. Call or e-mail if you need a referral. email@example.com
And all my contact info can be found at www.bmurraylaw.com
Everyone over the age of 18 should have a health care proxy. Period. Everyone. That means you, too. A health care proxy appoints the person of your choice to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. If your college student has a car accident and is taken to the local hospital, you want to be called, consulted, and listened to. A health care proxy can assist in this process. (Have him or her keep a copy in the glove box). A beloved family member is fading from a variety of age related illnesses, a health care proxy will help her get (or not get) the type of treatment SHE would choose. Will your frail parent want to be resuscitated if it will result in pain, broken ribs, and the extension of their terminal illness? Are you a “keep on trying no matter what!” type of person? Make that clear to your health care proxy.
A health care proxy in Massachusetts does not replace a living will. It appoints one person who can direct the medical decisions of the person who has made the document (principal). The best way to assure that your wishes are honored is to speak with the person you have chosen, and have some honest conversations about your wishes, well before the need arises. What makes a life worth living, rather than simply existing in pain or incapacity? This is a personal viewpoint, and one that it’s hard to know about someone else. Two tools I use with my clients are the “What If Workbook” and “Five Wishes”. Each lays out some of the questions and decisions we face with end of life medical care.
One final point. If you want your children or spouse or best friend to be able to speak with your medical provider, they should be named in a HIPPA release form. Our privacy laws can be a great help in protecting confidentiality, but can frustrate our families attempts to understand our condition and prognosis. A health care provider may not speak to you even if you are a parent, spouse, or child without legal permission to do so.
One of the benefits of the health reform law took effect January 1, 2011: free preventive services for Medicare recipients. Under the law, people with regular Medicare will no longer have to pay a copay, coinsurance or deductible to receive preventive services that are highly recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — services that include screenings for breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as smoking cessation counseling. Private Medicare plans (also known as Medicare Advantage plans) may still charge for these services, but many do not.
Also under the health reform law, Medicare Part B beneficiaries will now receive an annual wellness visit free of charge. During this yearly visit, your doctor or other health practitioner recognized by Medicare (such as a nurse practitioner) will update your medical history and current prescriptions; measure your height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index; create a screening schedule for the next 5 to 10 years and screen for cognitive issues. And Medicare now pays in full, without patient co-pays or deductibles, for the initial "Welcome to Medicare" that Medicare has offered since 2005 to beneficiaries within 12 months of their becoming covered under Medicare Part B. (For a CommonHealth article on what to expect from a wellness visit and how to get the most out of yours, click here.)
"Preventing diseases that can be prevented, and detecting others at earlier, more treatable stages, are among the keystones for transforming Medicare," said Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"By eliminating the beneficiary’s out-of-pocket costs for most preventive services, we are removing a barrier to access and paving the way for improved health for seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare for their health coverage."
For a detailed list from the Medicare Rights Center of preventive services that will no longer require out-of-pocket payments,click here. For more on Medicare’s preventive services from the Medicare Rights Center, click here, and from the Center for Medicare Advocacy, click here.