Why Estate Planning and Care Management Go Hand-in-Hand

Posted by Kristin A. Hughes, JD | Jun 06, 2024 | 0 Comments

Aging Life Care Association Midwest Chapter (ALCA) presentation excerpt featuring Kristin Hughes: The Case for Integration of Care Management in Estate Planning: Why it is So Important!

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of aging, the commitment to providing quality care and supportive partnerships to the elderly and their families becomes increasingly vital. An under-utilized but imperative partnership is that of estate planning and care coordination.  Having a strong understanding of an individual's goals and objectives, as well as the resources available to achieve those objectives during lifetime, creates an interwoven tapestry through the journey of life.  A tapestry that foresees the need of estate planning to put the essential threads and pattern of the tapestry together including 1) financial assets and resources; 2) family and social connections and networks; and 3) health and medical needs and desires.

In my many years of practice as an estate planning attorney, I have spent countless hours working with clients to prepare wills and trusts to help them pass assets to their intended recipients after death.  Like many attorneys in my field, my focus in estate planning was on the post-death disposition of assets and providing post-death assistance to families. As time went on in my career, the importance of the question related to “here and now” of “what if I need help” became apparent. 

What good are your assets and post-death plans if you do not protect yourself first and accomplish your own objectives and goals? Who will help with day-to-day activities like pay bills, call DTE or Comcast, buy dog food, file taxes, and manage real property. Who will promulgate your health care plans, call doctors, wait in waiting rooms, manage medication orders? Are those people prepared to step-up, seamlessly and effectively? What do those individuals need to know in order to be effective? Do they know your goals and objectives, your desires regarding care? Have you organized what is needed for them?  Have you effectuated the right estate planning documents to put them in place as a surrogate decision maker for you? 

Estate planning documents are extremely important, but will not perform as intended without more lifetime discussion, dialogue and planning as to the "how". How our clients, their families and the people named in these important documents are prepared and supported is a critical and important part of my job as an estate planner. Signing the estate planning documents is only the first step.  The next one hundred steps focus on how to deploy them in the "real world". 

Clients themselves and the people they have named to assist them during their lifetime need guidance. Guidance in the form of desires, e.g. “keep me in my home”; guidance in terms of whether their resources can meet their desires; guidance in terms of implementing their resources to the tasks associated with the ever-evolving landscape of aging. In a complex world, the value proposition of having a supportive partnership for this guidance, is high. During a time of crisis, everyone involved appreciates the work, knowledge and talents of the estate planning and care coordination team. Everyone benefits from all the attention that has been given to prepare for the tasks at hand. The days of having family members call me in the middle of the night panicked saying that they do not know what to do, are behind me. The days of client's saying “where do I place my mother, what type of living facility would be best? I cannot move her into my home. I'm overwhelmed. I don't know how to handle all of this. I cannot handle this when I am handling my own young children and working full time” - are also behind me. 

At Schluter & Hughes Law Firm, PLLC we use our custom model called the Continuum LifePlan to help families understand the natural progression of aging. We partner estate planning and care coordination to look at how aging impacts one's health, mobility, housing, and personal/social resources and create customized plans that allow for growth and change. The partnership of estate planning attorneys with our care coordinators, who are Nurses and a Physician's Assistant, provides for multilayer life planning to handle the "real world" and the "how's" and to ensure that an emergency action plan is in place if something happens. Knowing you have a team of professionals available to discuss life changes and transitions allows for peace of mind.

Preparing for the future requires a lot of thought. It is the kind and right thing for each of us to do for ourselves and our loved ones.  A coordinated effort means better outcomes.  

About the Author

Kristin A. Hughes, JD

ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW | Kristin is one of those people with the gift for bringing people together. Dedicated to helping families through life transitions and challenges, Kristin and her team find solutions. She concentrates her practice in the areas of estate planning, guardianships and conservatorships, elder law, and probate and trust administration. Kristin received her BA from Michigan State, JD from U of D Mercy.  Never one to sit on the sidelines, this mother of three, took up ice hockey and horseback riding in her 30's. 


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