As people age, a significantly larger percentage of the general population has need to consider various planning alternatives. In fact, a whole new area of practice is developing, called "elder law". 

By way of example, Medicaid is a federal program which exists to pay medical and living expenses, e.g. nursing home care, and now assisted living arrangements, for persons who don't have sufficient income or assets to meet said expenses. Generally speaking, your assets must be spent down to $ 1500. before you are eligible for Medicaid. 

There are however lawful and legitimate strategies to consider, such that through gifts and the transfer of assets, a person can become eligible for Medicaid without having to spend their entire children's inheritance. 

The Medicaid authorities will "look back" for five years, to review gifts and transfers. Therefore, it is best to plan ahead --long term. 

However, all is not lost if you haven't planned five years in advance. There are still things to be discussed and considered between you and your legal counsel, and there are planning options still available with which to preserve assets.