Northwestern Mutual

Health Care, Legal and Financial Checklist

Don’t let an unexpected need for long-term care derail your plans for the future.

You can never know for sure if you or a loved one will need long-term care. That’s why the best time to make important decisions about legal, financial and health care issues is now, before you or your loved one may actually need long-term care. Planning ahead gives you time to become better informed and prepared, and to retain control of any future decisions that may need to be made.

Decisions about Health Care

Over 15-million people care for someone with Alzheimer's Disease or other dementia

Start by thinking about what would happen if you became seriously ill or suffered a disabling injury.

  • Talk with your family and friends about who would provide care if you needed help for an extended period of time.
  • Review your long-term care options, including in-home care, assisted living facilities, community assistance, and nursing homes.
  • Make sure you have an up-to-date living will, which states your wishes for end-of-life care.

Decisions about the Future (Legal Decisions)

While it’s important for everyone to plan for the future, legal plans are especially important for a person requiring long-term care.

Legal planning should include the following important documents:

  • A durable power of attorney for finances, which gives a person you choose power to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf if you can’t make those decisions yourself.
  • A durable power of attorney for health care that gives a person you name power to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Make sure the person you choose understands and respects your values and beliefs about health care and is comfortable handling these decisions on your behalf.
  • A living will, which provides written instructions from you to your doctors about the course of life-sustaining medical treatment you want or don’t want if you are terminally ill, permanently unconscious, or in the final stage of a fatal illness.
  • A do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order, if desired, which tells health care professionals not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event your heart stops or if you stop breathing. A DNR order is signed by your health care provider and is put into your medical files. You do not need to have a DNR order unless you want one.
  • A living trust, which enables you to place some or all of your assets in a special account that you (or someone you name) manage for your benefit during your lifetime and then have those assets transferred directly to your beneficiaries after your death, thus avoiding probate. If you should become incapacitated or disabled, the trust is in place to manage your financial affairs on your behalf.

An attorney can help create the appropriate legal documents. If you already have them in place, be sure to check them periodically to make sure they reflect your current circumstances and wishes. Be sure to give copies of your legal documents to your loved ones, your health care power of attorney, and your doctor.

Decisions about Finances

Financial planning is a crucial part of getting the long-term care you want and protecting your retirement savings and estate. To avoid some of the challenges of paying for long-term care (should the need arise in the future), plan ahead by giving consideration today to issues such as:

  • Financial resources. How would you feel about using them to pay for long-term care? These resources may include Social Security, your pension and/or 401(k) and other retirement plan assets, personal savings and investments, and your home.
  • Insurance coverage. Many people mistakenly assume that Medicare and/or their health plan at work will cover any long-term care they may need. Not so. Both typically provide only a limited amount of coverage for long-term supportive services. For example, Medicare covers up to 100 days in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility, but only after you have spent three days in the hospital. For this reason, it’s important to review your employer-sponsored health care, and/or Medicare and Medigap plans to learn what is covered and what isn’t.
  • Financial records. Make a list of important financial information, including the location of your savings, investing and other financial accounts and key contact information. You’ll want to put a copy of this list in your safe place where your trusted family member or the person with financial power of attorney can easily access it. Review this document annually.

    Financial information should include:
    • Bank and brokerage account information
    • Deeds, mortgage papers and ownership statements
    • Will and trust documents
    • Insurance policies
    • Monthly and outstanding bills
    • Pension and other retirement benefit summaries
    • Social Security payment information

While you can’t predict if or when long-term care will be needed, you can prepare for the possibility by making crucial health, legal and financial decisions up front. This checklist can help you create a plan to help ensure your needs and wishes are honored and your assets are protected today and in the future.

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