By Joy Gullikson and Michelle Fournier
Having a team of experts to call on is sound planning, no matter what your age or health condition. The older or less independent you are, the more important this planning becomes. Everyone needs experts they can call on to help with their legal, financial, tax, medical, real estate, and even pet and vehicle issues. Ideally, these experts will have your best interests at heart, will recognize issues outside their own areas of expertise and make referrals, and will work with each other to provide the best care possible.
For example: John Doe suffers from severe diabetes, lives alone, has investments with three different investment houses, banks at two different banks, drives an old Chevy and has a 10 year old cat. John wants to sell his home and move into an assisted living facility. He doesn’t want to talk to his son, because John is afraid to worry him. Eventually, John hears of an assisted living place through friends and decides to move. John must pay the down payment so he calls one of his banks, but there was no one available to listen to his story and help him develop a plan. John withdraws money from two investment accounts to come up with the entrance fee, incurring a substantial tax impact. John hires movers, and once in his assisted living, must move the furniture around himself to fit it all in. As John moves in, he is told that he needs to get rid of his cat. John is exhausted, broke and devastated that he will lose his pet.
If John had a team in place the story would be different. He would call his elder law attorney who would put him in touch with the firm’s care manager. The care manager would work with John to find a place that he likes, can afford, and allows pets. John’s financial advisor would work with John to find the entrance fee funds that would cause the least tax burden and help John appropriately invest the funds from the sale of his home (using a realtor recommended by one of his team). The care manager would also find John a mover who would not only take care of the move but also the set up in his new apartment. Once in his new apartment, John would call on his veterinarian, who makes house calls, to provide John’s cat with the care needed. John’s experts identify other services that will come to John. Soon John feels he no longer needs his car. He contacts his trusted mechanic who sells the car for a good price. Thanks to the efforts of John’s team, the process of change is smoother, simpler, and ultimately less expensive than the first.
5 Steps to Building a Good Team:
1. Build your core team. The core team include your lawyer, health care professional and financial advisor. Find these people early, establish a rapport with each of them and ensure that each expert will work with the others.
2. Identify other team members you may need. If you have a pet, you may need a veterinarian who makes house calls. If you have hearing loss, you may need a mobile audiologist.
3. Build your team before you need to make life altering decisions. The earlier you have a team of people who know you, your desires and your needs, the smoother decision making will be in the event changes need to happen quickly or if a crisis occurs.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask your team for help outside their area of expertise. If your lawyer, whom you trust, trusts a certain real estate agent, chances are you will trust that agent as well.
5. If you are tired, turn the management of your team over to a trusted family member, whom you know has your best interests at heart. A son or daughter whom you know to be competent will usually be glad to make sure that your needs are met. Having a good team in place will make the job much easier for your child, rather than having to make guesses about what to do.
Planning and gathering a trusted team will ensure your life plan is as smooth as possible.