January 2015 Bar Bulletin
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January 2015 Bar Bulletin

Housing Goals Help Avoid Institutional Care

By Rajiv Nagaich


(Third in a series; First of two parts)

Generally, the planning goals articulated at the first meeting between a client and an elder law attorney do not necessarily match up to the ones the client truly hopes to accomplish. As I've discussed previously, a client with an eye toward retirement generally wants to: (1) avoid institutional care; (2) protect assets; and (3) not become a burden on others.

However, the client seeking your help may not be able to articulate these goals. This makes it the elder law attorney's job to raise planning issues and then propose solutions that address not only the traditional planning goals the client likely parrots, but also these additional goals.

This perspective comes from personal experience and has been instructive in defining an elder law practice established to go beyond developing basic legal answers for seeking traditional estate planning solutions. So, how can the attorney look at things differently to help clients achieve their unspoken retirement goals? This month, I want to talk about how planning around housing goals will allow your clients avoid institutional care.

Helping Clients Avoid Institutional Care

When people say they want to avoid institutional care, they are really saying that they want to age in place.1 At the outset, it should be acknowledged that it isn't appropriate for every individual desiring to age in place to do so. That said, many people who desire to age in place find themselves facing institutional care even in instances in which they could have managed aging in place. So, how can an attorney assist a client wishing to avoid institutional care?

As a naturalized U.S. citizen born in the so-called Third World, I'm puzzled that aging and incapacitated individuals in the Third World can age in place while similarly situated individuals in the richest nation on Earth are subjected to what amounts to forced institutional care.

It is instructive to note that institutional care hasn't always been the norm. For centuries, aging was a family-supported issue, but a combination of events caused Americans to move away from what had been the norm of the family caregiver model.

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