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How Couples Can Share Long-Term-Care Benefits

Spouses can choose a long-term-care policy with “shared” coverage, giving them a pool of benefits that they can split.

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Q

How does a shared-benefit rider for long-term-care insurance work? Does it cost more than regular coverage?

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A

One of the big unknowns with long-term-care insurance is predicting how long you’ll need benefits. Although the average need for care is about three years, you might die before needing any care or you could have a long-lasting condition, such as Alzheimer’s, and receive care for much longer. Getting a shared-benefit rider with your spouse is a way to hedge your bets when choosing your benefit period.

Instead of two separate benefit periods, a couple has a pool of long-term-care benefits to split. For example, rather than having three years for each spouse, you may have a total of six years of coverage that either one of you can use. If your spouse needs care for two years, you’ll still have four years of coverage.

Adding a shared-benefit rider to a LTC policy generally costs more than buying two separate benefit periods, increasing the cost by about 16% for a three-year benefit period – six total years of coverage for a couple - and 10% for a five-year benefit period, says Claude Thau, a long-term-care insurance specialist in Overland Park, Kan. But having the shared benefit may make you feel more comfortable with buying a shorter benefit period.

For more information about long-term-care insurance, see The Long-Term-Care Insurance Dilemma.

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