November 2014 Bar Bulletin
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November 2014 Bar Bulletin

Good Health: Your Most Valuable Asset in Retirement

By Rajiv Nagaich


(Second in a series)

Last month we proposed that for many people heading into retirement, traditional planning proves to be a recipe for disaster. How people plan for retirement and the goals that will ultimately prove to be their significant life objectives are generally like ships passing in the night. That's because, in retirement, people generally want to avoid institutional care, not outlive their assets and not become a burden on their loved ones.

Unfortunately, the most likely reason to fail in that goal is a medical episode that robs those same individuals of independence and causes significant cash outlays in order to access care generally not covered by Medicare, which as a result causes them to become a burden on others. In other words, if you can somehow plan your life so you do not fall ill, then you will not face these issues. Hence our conclusion: The most valuable asset in retirement is one's good health.

With the foregoing in mind, this month I'd like to focus on the topic of health as it relates to the overall client's life plan. Specifically, I want to explore the role an attorney can play in helping a client stay healthy.

In very short order, we're all going to live in a world completely unlike anything ever experienced in recorded history. For the first time, we'll inhabit a world of older people.1 The result is that for many countries the sheer number of older people, and thus the care needed for them, will threaten a country's infrastructure.2

While developed countries such as the U.S. have had decades in which to become financially more sound, those countries too will suffer the high cost of poor health and disability.3 The inevitable result is that the citizens of those countries will shoulder a large part of the care burden.

Why is health such an important aspect of the aging process and why does an elder law attorney concentrate so much on it? Nearly every decision clients make concerning health will impact their ability to age in place: where they'll live; how much care family members or someone else will have to provide; how much it will cost for day-to-day living expenses; and whether someone else will need to make medical (or financial) decisions. All of these decisions will depend upon how well they can function physically and cognitively.

There are no guarantees that taking steps to remain healthy will result in health, but people who take no steps for their health are practically guaranteeing that they will not remain healthy and that at some point their lives will be in crisis. I want my clients to have the best possible shot at not experiencing that crisis.

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