Home hospice care: What you should know

Proper planning can help home hospice bring peace.

Article published: October 16, 2023

In this article:

  • Home hospice care allows one to be in the comfort of one’s home, surrounded by loved ones, at the end of life
  • Planning ahead can prevent legal distractions from interfering with home hospice
  • At minimum, a basic estate plan should be in place before entering hospice, including a health care proxy and power of attorney

Thinking about end-of-life issues can be among the most difficult things to do. We can only imagine that we want to be surrounded by those we love and in the comfort of our home. Home hospice care can offer this medical care and comfort as well as emotional support for the patient and family.

To help ensure that home hospice provides the level of care you and your family seek, it’s important to prepare legal documents well ahead of time. 


Before we get into legal preparations for home hospice care, let’s learn more about why people need it. Home hospice provides medical care and other services for a person in the last phase of a serious illness and all in their own home.

Families may be able to spend more precious time with loved ones during home hospice and to be more directly involved in the caregiving than they would in a hospital.


There also may be greater freedom to incorporate the spiritual and emotional aspects of caregiving. A focus of home hospice is on palliative and not curative care, but that in no way means medical care is of less quality. Home hospice can involve an interdisciplinary team that may include physicians, nurses, physical therapy, home health aides as well as grief and religious counselors. Thus, family caregivers can have a team of support.


Medicare will pay for most home hospice services – not just physician, nursing, homemaker and spiritual services but also medical equipment for pain relief and pain management prescriptions.

To qualify for hospice, a doctor needs to certify that their patient is terminally ill and has a life expectancy of six months or less to live. After the initial six months, the patient can continue to receive hospice provided the hospice physician attests the terminal illness is ongoing.

Basic estate planning needed beforehand

However, there are important estate planning decisions that should be made before a patient enters hospice. This can include setting up a health care proxy and power of attorney. Here are some things to consider:

Because a person enters hospice care near the end of life, it’s possible that they could become incapacitated. In the event of incapacitation, someone (called a health care proxy) must be legally named to direct health care decisions. And having someone with a power of attorney who can take care of your finances, such as paying your bills, is important during this period. These are separate legal documents and you can name the same person for both roles or different people, but they will need to work together, so you get the care you need.

The basics of estate planning, like having a power of attorney, a health care proxy and a will or a living trust all should be in place when someone enters hospice care.

- Erin Gilmore Smith, Director, Estate Planning


Beyond having a will or a living trust that specifies how your assets will be distributed when you pass, Smith says people should also consider creating a “living will.” A living will spells out if you want to be resuscitated and the kind of palliative care you prefer. Just as importantly, you can also specify your funeral arrangements, but be sure they are financially covered.

“It’s going to be an emotional time,” says Linda Campbell, Director, Financial Planning. “Many times, the caregivers are the spouses or the close relatives who also happen to be the beneficiaries,” Campbell says, adding, “It’s important to get estate-related, legal documents in order as much as you can beforehand.”

This means all documents, including insurance and retirement accounts, should be reviewed by a financial planner to help ensure they have the most up-to-date beneficiary information.

“If your loved ones understand your last wishes, everyone can focus on your last moments together,” says Smith.

Home hospice care may provide just the right medical and emotional care you and your loved ones want at the end of life. Planning for it with an estate planning attorney and a financial planner will help ensure your family is not distracted from what is most important during this time – being together.

The information regarding estate planning should not be construed as tax or legal advice and is for general informational purposes only.


Neither Edelman Financial Engines nor its affiliates offer tax or legal advice. Interested parties are strongly encouraged to seek advice from your qualified tax and/or legal professionals to help determine the best options for your particular circumstances.

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