Estate Planning: Start Early

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The topic of what happens after you're gone isn't really a fun one to dive into.  But experts who work with the area's elderly population say just a bit of planning now can save your family a lot of heartache down the road.

We recently sat down for an interview with Maria Maletta-Hastie at LIFE Geisinger, a day facility for elder care.  But this time, she was the one asking the questions: how will I protect my assets from the cost of long-term care?  Who will make decisions on my behalf when I can't?  Does that person know my wishes?  Who will get what when I'm gone?  These, she says, are all questions to consider as early as age 30.

"At age 30 I was just making sure my shoes were the same color before I left the house! Estate planning was not on my priority list," said Maria with a laugh.

But watching families do estate planning at the wrong time- when a crisis arises- is what she admits she does often.  Maletta-Hastie is the outreach /enrollment coordinator at LIFE Geisinger and often counsels families through the process.

"The phone call comes in- Mom fell, we're in the hospital, she just had surgery, now we need a nursing home and I don't know how I'm going to pay for it,"she says.

It's a common enough problem that she, along with attorneys Brenda Colbert and Kevin Grebas, from Pittston lawfirm Colbert & Grebas, created a seminar to help.  They offer it quarterly, and soon will be taking it on the road.  About a dozen people turned out to one such seminar Monday night at Geisinger Wyoming Valley near Wilkes-Barre.

"The average cost of nursing home care is over $100,000/year, so without proper plans, people can end up spending a lot more of their assets than they anticipated on that care," noted Atty. Kevin Grebas.

Participants learned what documents they need to spell out their medical and financial wishes, and who is eligible for government help.  Armed with the right info, families can have a plan in place when they need it.

"It just alleviates the doubt, it alleviates the dissention, it's very clear cut," said Maletta-Hastie.

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