In our society, the idea of growing older is taboo, and no one wants to think about what will happen to us as we age. This mentality leaves many of us unwilling to prepare for our golden years. Thus, we are unprepared for what the future may hold.
The National Association of Estate Planners & Councils estimates that more than 120 million Americans still need an updated estate plan or any long-term financial plans. While the thought of growing older might be unpleasant to think about now, a senior estate plan can mitigate some of the perils and anxieties of aging. Those who have planned are typically more legally, emotionally, and financially prepared to take on their golden years than their counterparts who lack a senior estate plan.
Estate Planning Basics for Seniors
Traditional estate planning has focused primarily on death planning—what happens to your assets when you die? Senior estate planning is about helping you plan for the second half of life and addressing what happens if you don’t die suddenly but need long-term care for an extended period of time.
A senior estate plan encompasses all aspects of planning for aging, illness, and incapacity. The plan addresses concrete issues, such as powers of attorney, wills, and trusts, and also provides your family and caretakers with your wishes concerning your finances, health care, and desired living conditions. Here is a list of the common areas touched on in a senior estate plan:
- Health and Personal Care Planning: Includes Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Wills, and lifetime planning.
- Financial Representation: Includes Durable Power of Attorney, assisted living care facilities and how to finance them, and income, gift, and estate tax matters.
- Long-Term Care Planning: Includes asset protection planning, helping to apply and qualify for public benefits such as Medicaid or Veterans’ benefits.
- Will and Trust Planning: Includes planning for minor children or adult special needs children and how to avoid probate if desired.
When Should I Create My Senior Estate Plan?
The following diagram can help you and your loved ones understand the natural progression of aging. It also demonstrates the correlation between age and health, finances, and living situations.
As you can see, there can be a quick progression between being a healthy, vigorous senior and falling victim to an illness or injury. An elder law attorney can proactively create a senior estate plan, before an emergency arises that minimizes the unwelcome financial and emotional surprises you might experience in your senior years.
For example, suppose you need in-home assistance after a hospital visit. In that case, your senior estate plan will have a clear roadmap for how to finance the care (whether it be from your savings, private insurance, or a Medicare benefit). Additionally, the plan will have explicit instructions for your family to follow if it becomes necessary for you to enter an assisted living facility. Your family can reference the plan when deciding what facility you want, if there are any particular attributes to look for in a facility, and what you can reasonably afford to pay for the facility.
Need To Establish A Senior Estate Plan?
Carolina Family Estate Planning’s team of experienced elder law attorneys is ready to help you create a personalized senior estate plan. Please call our office at (919) 899-2606 or schedule a free case assessment via our website.