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Has your house ever burned down? No? But you have fire insurance: if your house did catch fire, the damage would be too great to pay out of pocket.

Disability is a little like that – except that disability is much more likely than a fire. In 2018 the U.S. government estimated that one in four Americans is disabled.

Planning for Disability Now

There are all kinds of disability and varying degrees and durations. But however lucky we may have been earlier in life, we are very likely to suffer one or more debilitating conditions during the retirement years. In fact, about 3 out of 4 of us will need long-term personal and medical assistance. 57% of us will move to assisted living. 39% of us will spend time in a nursing home – and not just for short term rehab.

Those aren’t good odds.

But you do not have to leave it to chance. We all can – and should – plan for disability. Putting plans in place now will keep us in charge later.

Planning Ahead: Physical, Financial, and Decision-Making Preparations

Some of those plans are physical, such as taking balance classes and making senior-friendly home alterations.

Some of those plans are financial, such as setting aside a larger emergency fund, this time to weather downturns in the stock, not the job market, and to manage during natural disasters, including pandemics.

Then there is “Me, Inc.” You are the president, the CEO. Who is your vice president? Who will be your wing man when you need someone to speak for you or to access funds to pay for your care? How will you give them instructions? Are a Medical and a Durable [Financial] Power of Attorney enough? Would you be better off with a Revocable Living Trust?


Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, CELA, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.


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