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Consider the costs of health care now so your heirs don't have to

If you're like a lot of our Harrisburg readers, then you've probably started considering your estate plan, including what you'd like to give to your loved ones and how you want it distributed to them. As you may be finding out though, there is a lot more to estate planning than just this. You must also consider power of attorney, health care directives and perhaps most importantly, setting aside money for health care costs.

If you're like a lot of people across Pennsylvania and the nation, then health care costs may not cross your mind when drafting your estate plan. As you will soon see though, not planning for your potential health care needs now can affect your loved ones and your estate later on.

To illustrate this point, we'd like you to consider the worst-case scenario that could happen to you. Imagine that you are retired and receiving Social Security benefits. Your limited budget hardly leaves room for wiggle room but you manage. Suddenly though you are struck ill and need to stay at the hospital for a few days. While there, you discover that you have developed a serious disease that will now require you to stay in a nursing home, perhaps for the rest of your life.

A scenario such as this, though heartbreaking as it is, can become exacerbated when patients receive their first of many medical bills, which may total thousands of dollars. Add the average monthly stay in a nursing home to these bills and you may find your savings quickly depleted in a matter of months.

Situations such as this can become problematic for your loved ones because you may die before you can pay off these debts, leaving the remainder for your heirs and beneficiaries to sort out. You may need to change your estate plan in order to dip into funds you had set aside for someone to inherit. Both situations are just as likely as the next, but can be avoided if you properly plan for health care costs before it's too late.

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