As we age, the need for estate planning becomes more critical, but estate planning is a smart step for people of all ages. Many people avoid estate planning because they do not want to think about the end of life, failing health or disability. Others believe that an estate plan is only for rich people. However, an estate plan is helpful for senior adults and their families regardless of overall wealth.
The estate is all the property owned both individually and jointly, including bank accounts, real estate, jewelry, etc., and what is owed. Without an estate plan, it is very difficult to carry out a person’s wishes and can bring on long, drawn-out probate that can be very expensive for the family. If an estate plan is in place, it can provide peace of mind for the senior adult and their family, as well as protection for the wishes of the senior.
Below are some basic guidelines for what should be included in an estate plan.
- Will. A will provides for an executor of the estate, who will take care of managing the estate, paying debts, and distributing property as specified. The distribution of assets can be outlined in the will. This can be as broad or detailed as a person wishes. In a will, beneficiaries and guardians for minor children should be assigned. It may not seem necessary to discuss minor children when discussing seniors and estate planning, but with the rise of grandparents raising grandchildren, this may indeed be an important part of the will. A senior adult can spell out, in the will, how they want their funeral and burial to be carried out as well.
- Living Will. A living will outlines a person’s wishes for end of life medical care. It can include, in as much detail as that person wishes, what medical treatments he or she would or would not like to have in specific situations. A living will takes the stress of making those decisions off of family members and helps to keep peace in families during times that can be difficult and emotional.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney. A healthcare power of attorney is also a key part of an estate plan. This legal document provides for someone to legally make healthcare decisions on an individual’s behalf. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect for the individual if he or she becomes unable to make decisions.
- Financial Power of Attorney. A financial power of attorney names an agent who has the power to act in the place of an individual for matters relating to finances. The durable financial power of attorney stays in effect if the individual becomes unable to handle their affairs. By having a financial power of attorney in place, the stress and expense of a guardianship can be avoided, and the individual has the final say in who will make decisions relating to finances.
- Trust. Setting up a trust can be beneficial for the distribution of an individual’s assets. The benefit of a trust is that it does not go through probate, as compared to a will. Property is still distributed at the death of the trust maker, but it is done without the need of a court. This also allows for the privacy of the individual, where with a will and probate, all of the deceased person’s assets and the terms of their will is made public.
Having an estate plan is necessary if you or your loved one wishes to have a say in what happens in the event of disability or at the end of their life. Consulting and planning with an elder law attorney will help to ensure that you explore all options and the best possible solution is utilized. The elder law attorney can walk you through all of the necessary parts of the estate plan, provide explanations, and prepare the paperwork. Elder law attorneys will help take the guesswork out of estate planning.
We are offering a free 30-minute consultation by video or by phone to help you get started with this process. Contact our office at 314-872-3333 to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.