Elder Estate Planning - and Plunders
Just how important is Elder Estate Planning -
and can it be botched?
Twenty years ago attorneys and certified financial planners did not specialize in estate planning as much as they do now, with our quickly-growing elderly population and complicated elderly issues. There are greater numbers of seniors living into their 80s and 90s. Estate planning has become a bigger concern, including for baby boomers.
From working on the management team at a debt buyer and collection attorney's office, I obtained interesting experience from a somewhat different perspective about estate and financial planning (or lack of it) -- including estates, wills, trusts, power of attorney issues, credit bureau reports, guardianship, probate, bankruptcy, etc. I got to see it all from the flip side of the coin. The side you do not want to flip. Especially as you age.
In this day and age there is a great deal of help and information available to plan estates and trusts. A person need not go through some of the scenarios I witnessed.
Our Dad was always very thorough. But when he moved back here from Arizona at age 93, we had to make sure all of his legal documents were in order in this state. Yes, this did take consulting with an attorney and there was cost involved. But it was crucial and well worth it.
In addition to what I already knew, I did learn a tremendous amount. And it turned out a few changes did have to be made that would have otherwise caused a mess.And if you're a baby boomer --
You do need elder estate planning just as much. Read on!NOTE:
These articles on elder estate planning and other legal issues are not intended as legal advice; but rather, as basic information only. Always ask a qualified legal professional if you have any questions.
There is a wide range of laws regarding the elderly – a niche called elder law. Lawyers who specialize in elder law assist with matters affecting the autonomy of elderly people, especially personal and financial matters. The specifics of wills, trusts, healthcare directives, power of attorney, to name a few, are included. Although you may be perfectly capable of doing some of the basics of elder estate planning yourself, it is always important to obtain the services of a legal professional before finalizing these matters.
What is involved in elder estate planning?
An estate is everything that is involved with one’s money and property. Estate planning, then, is the written instruction for the distributing or giving away of those things that you have acquired, for the benefit and care of those in your life. Estate planning will differ according to a person’s family needs and personal goals. There are several “tools” involved in elderly estate planning. The one people are most familiar with is the Will, often known as the “keystone” to financial planning. It can be easily changed through the various stages of one’s life – and should be. See specifics in our
Estate Planning Guide.
Elder estate planning, as with early retirement planning, can never be done too early. For baby boomers, now is the time. And it is very important to keep matters up-to-date. If you wait too long to plan, poor estate planning could cause an unfortunate burden to your loved ones. Recent surveys have shown that over 55% of adult Americans do not have estate planning in place. Think you don’t have time or the money to hire an attorney? Have estate planning questions? Take a look at our
Estate Planning Checklist.
Your overall financial estate planning should address who will inherit your property and money, and what will happen to it and to you should you become incapacitated or seriously ill. It can also include your preferences regarding healthcare treatment, life support, resuscitation or not, pain management, etc. These are all serious elderly issues to consider. Making these decisions now is important for your personal peace of mind. Including family members in decisions and clear communication is vital. This is especially important if you are married and hold joint assets. Confusion added to the grief of your loved ones can be overwhelming for them.
First review our
Estate Planning Guide
Estate Planning Checklist
to become familiar with the basics. Then check out downloading a sample Will from the internet, or buying a blank form from an office supply store. Spend a little time a day working on your preliminary financial estate planning, by beginning with a Will. Taking these measures yourself will save a lot of money in attorney fees. However, keep in mind that this is the beginning. It should ultimately be reviewed by an attorney to make sure it meets your state’s requirements for a valid Will.
If You Do Not Have a Will
If you (or loved one) do not have your elder estate planning in order and you die without a Will, this situation is called being “intestate.” The State and probate court will then become involved and make crucial decisions that you would have wanted to make yourself, much to the disappoint (or perhaps delight) of those left behind. These are some of the results that could occur from poor estate planning:
- Your assets going to the wrong people (beneficiaries); perhaps an ex-spouse.
- This can result in anger and fighting among family (or former) family members.
- Not updating or eliminating joint ownership – so your joint tenant’s banks, creditors, divorce are now involved with your property/bank assets.
- Paying unnecessary death taxes/estate taxes.
- Your estate is tied up in probate, wasting time and money.
- The state makes decisions regarding your estate…instead of you. Parameters differ by jurisdiction and can be complex.
- You will not have appointed an Executor of your choice to administer your estate. The State will appoint one; probably a stranger.
- If you have no living blood relatives, the State may receive your estate.
- Your are kept hooked up to life support machines against what would have been your wishes.
- Your heirs do not even know you left a life insurance policy or retirement fund.
- Your assets are not up to date, and no one knows where your legal documents and Inventory are, if any.
- With poor estate planning, your debts are not up to date or clearly defined, so no one knows how your estate will be impacted.
- Your credit report is erroneous, and your family must deal with it.
- If you have minor children, you may not have provided for appropriate guardianship, including administration of any property you've left to them.
- The Court will make the decisions regarding your minor children and their property.
If you are tempted to do up a home-made Will, think twice. A homemade Will may not be accepted in your state. A valid Will must contain certain language, be signed in a certain way, and may require a certain number of witnesses. Your homemade Will may not stand up in court and will be invalid. The State will then take over and handle the financial estate planning issues as described above.
Even if you use an internet program or workbook for your elder estate planning, have an attorney review your Will. Then keep it stored in a safe place such as a safety deposit box in your bank. Inform your family and your Executor of its location.
There are many other specific considerations with Wills, estate planning and trusts. These can be very complex. To answer your elder estate planning questions and learn the basics, see our Estate Planning Checklist and Estate Planning Guide.
In addition to this Elder Estate Planning page, also see:
Finding A Financial Planner - And Getting A Good One
-- Finding a financial planner takes a lot of careful preparation. If you want someone really good. You need to know specific questions to ask yourself – and to ask the potential financial planner. Do you know them?
Retirement Financial Planning - From Here To There
-- Done your retirement financial planning? It doesn't have to be overwhelming. Learn the basics and see our tips to get from Here...to There.
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