Plan While You Can

Roger W. Anderson. Plan While You Can: Legal Solutions for Facing Disability. Bloomington, Ind. 1st Books Library. 2003. 148 pages.

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This slim volume offers an excellent introduction to the various legal tools that allow us to plan for the possibility of disability and the certainty of death. The author, a law professor at the University of Toledo, has a gift for explaining often difficult concepts informally and simply, without sacrificing essential detail. His emphasis is on empowering readers to develop their own individualized plans in consultation with appropriate professionals, rather than relying on a "cookie-cutter" approach.

The book covers the essential building blocks of estate and disability planning, including probate, wills, trusts, different schemes for distributing assets upon death, powers of attorney, advance directives and guardianship. The chapter on the personalized protection that trusts can provide is particularly helpful. Long-term care insurance gets its own chapter and Prof. Anderson presents useful questions to help evaluate a policy. On the other hand, the book's discussion of Medicaid planning is brief, covering only the bare essentials.

Plan While You Can's final section is devoted to interviewing, assembling and working with a team of advisors, which could include an attorney, insurance advisor, accountant, social worker, health care professional, among others. While surely feasible for some, this team approach seems a bit unrealistic for many people, since it appears to assume that the client has substantial resources, time and sophistication. The reason the profession of elder law sprang up in the first place was to bring such planning decisions under one "roof" as much as possible.

Still, Prof. Anderson's book is a valuable and quick starting point for anyone to become an informed partner with whichever professionals they choose to help them develop estate and disability plans that meet their needs.