Each year, around this time, we begin to look back on the previous year. The fact that October is National Special Needs Law Month is timed beautifully in that it reminds us that no matter how great the year’s been, there’s still next year and clients who need elder care and estate planning guidance. As we gear up for this special month, this is an ideal opportunity to remind clients of all of the goings-on in this important legal sector.
Special Needs Law
Special needs law is particularly focused on providing legal assistance to those with disabilities and their families wishing to ensure their quality of life is right where it should be. The legal considerations are many and we take pride in knowing we can play some small role in these families’ efforts. Typically, special needs encompasses Medicaid, guardianship, durable powers of attorney, other healthcare coverage, mental health considerations, financial considerations and estate planning when it’s applicable.
We’re Living Longer
With nearly 20 percent of the American population with a diagnosed disability, it’s more important than ever to focus on the quality of life. Whether it’s a disability one is born with or one he experiences over the course of his life due to illness or accident, the last thing a family wants for its loved one is for his needs to go unmet. Our roles put those important dynamics in place so that it never happens. It stands to reason this particular legal avenue will grow in the coming years.
Not only that, but we’re living longer. At the ages of 65 and 85, the expectancy has increased. The National Institute on Health reports that under current mortality conditions, people who survive to age 65 can expect to live an average of 19.2 more years, nearly 5 years longer than people age 65 in 1960.
By the Numbers
Breaking the statistics down a bit more, the need for long term care becomes obvious:
(Statistics are from CDC and NCHS unless otherwise noted.)
- Within the next two decades, those over the age of 65 will make up 20 percent of the population in the United States.
- Of those age 65 and older today, 70 percent of them will require long term care.
- Of those age 85 and older who reside in nursing homes accounts for 14 percent of the population
- Medicaid accounts for 49 percent of long term care spending while Medicare accounts for another 20 percent. Meanwhile, out of pocket expenses made by the families comprise 18 percent and private insurance accounts for just 7 percent of long term care spending.
- Social Security accounts for at least 90 percent of income to more than one-third of America’s seniors. Without Social Security, nearly half of Americans over 65 would live below the federal poverty level.
- Many seniors rely on fixed incomes, receiving on average $1,234 in Social Security benefits, $516.90 in Supplemental Security Income each month. (National Council on Aging, Fact Sheets)
If you’ve not considered the benefits of planning for your retirement and covering your estate planning goals, this is a great time to do so. If you’re concerned about your parents’ plans, you might wish to check in and begin the conversation. They may have questions and not know where to turn.
Choose an estate planning attorney who is willing to answer your questions with straightforward replies. While much of what we decide can be changed through the year, don’t underestimate irrevocable trusts and other decisions that could corner you at some point.