Amy & Dan Smith's Planning for Life: Are Your Estate and Financial Plans Shock-Proof?

Don’t wait until “what if?” becomes “what is.”

Where will you live as you age?

Think about your housing options now, so you have choices and won’t have to make a hasty decision should an unexpected health event force you to move or modify your home.

Staying Put
Most of us prefer to stay in our homes as we age.  If that sounds like you, plan in advance for modifications you might need to make your home safer or more accessible (e.g. ramps, wider doorways, grab bars.)  Think about whether family members can take you to doctor’s appointments, buy groceries and help with home maintenance.  If you don’t have a support system, you’ll need a plan and budget for transportation, home repairs, and in-home health and personal care services.  Hiring a personal aid, for example, costs an average of $21 per hour.

Sources: Legg Mason,

Moving Out
While it may be hard to imagine today, if you can’t stay in your home due to a health event, consider other housing options that could provide more personal, social and healthcare support.

Assisted Living
Among the benefits of an assisted living facility: social connections with other residents and help with everyday tasks like laundry, taking medications and transportation.  Some amenities are included in your rent and some cost extra.  Your monthly rent could be as high as $4,500, depending on the facility and care needed, so tour facilities in your price range and develop a short list.  Ask about additional fees for services like help with dressing if you were to become less mobile.

Nursing Home
If you face a chronic illness or injury that requires 24/7 medical care, your next step may be a nursing home, also called a “long-term” or “skilled-care” facility.  Tour facilities and talk to staff.  Ask residents and their families (if you can) about the level of response and care they receive.

Keep in mind these facilities are often part of a continuing care retirement community, so residents already in a community’s independent or assisted care facility will get first preference on long-term housing.  Ask if there’s a waiting list for non-community retirees.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities
If you’re thinking about the levels of care you may need as you age and prefer to minimize changing neighborhoods and providers, a CCRC may be your best option.  These communities progress in cost and care, from independent apartments to assisted living and finally, long-term care.  Ask whether there are buy-in costs that guarantee you first preference if, for example, you have to move form an independent apartment to the assisted living facility.  Tour each facility within the CCRC and budget accordingly.

Visit at different times of day, including mealtimes.  Talk to residents and visiting family members.  Review fees for rent and additional services.  Ask about average response time to assist a resident.

Next Steps
Think about if you’ll need transportation or live close enough to walk to shopping and medical facilities.

Learn what fees are required upfront to buy into a continuing care retirement community.

Calculate how much to set aside should you need long-term care.

From "Amy & Dan Smith's Planning for Life" column appearing monthly in the Blue Ridge Leader, Loudoun County, VA.

The foregoing article contains general legal information only and is not intended to convey legal advice.  For legal advice regarding estate planning, the reader should contact his/her lawyer.

Daniel D. Smith is a partner in the law firm of Smith & Pugh, PLC, 161 Fort Evans Road, NE, Suite 345, Leesburg, VA 20176. (Tel: 703-777-6084, He has practiced law in Loudoun County since 1980.