According to AARP, around half of all American adults don’t have a will. But seniors are much more likely to have a will than younger adults. Among people older than 71, around 80% do have a will. And close to 60% of people age 53 to 71 say they have a will, according to AARP.
Whether you have a will or not, your estate planning tasks are probably not complete. Here are some tips for managing estate planning from your assisted living apartment.
1. Consider documents other than wills.
Most people know that they should have a will. A will is what communicates your wishes about how you want your assets distributed to beneficiaries. Depending on state laws, you may have complete freedom in this regard or you may need to adhere to some basics about inheritance and work within those laws.
If you don’t have a will, you can create one and file it with a number of do-it-yourself services, such as Legal Zoom. This can be an option if you’re fairly savvy about legal documents or if you have someone willing to help you, especially if your needs are basic. But if you have a complex estate, you may want to work with a legal professional to help protect your assets and your beneficiaries.
And while you’re at it, some other estate planning documents you might want to consider include:
- Powers of attorney. You can create a power of attorney to give someone limited or complete control over different matters should you be unable to make decisions for yourself. This can include financial and legal matters.
- Health care proxy or durable power of attorney. This is a type of power of attorney that gives someone the authority to speak with medical staff and make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them for yourself. It also lays out your wishes for life-prolonging measures so the person knows what your wishes are and doesn’t have the burden of guessing.
- Trusts. Trusts can be a way to shelter assets from various tax burdens and even some creditors should you want to pass them on to someone. You can also set parameters for the use of assets in a trust, such as requiring that they be used to pay for education expenses. Trusts are definitely a more complex estate document and it’s typically a good idea to get a professional to work with you on those documents.
2. Carefully consider who your executor or power of attorney might be.
When you create estate planning documents, you typically have to choose an executor or someone to be the power of attorney, depending on which form you’re working on. Both of these are positions of extreme trust, so make sure you:
- Talk to the person to ensure they are amenable to accepting this obligation
- Choose someone you trust to carry out the spirit and letter of your wishes
- Choose someone who is capable of handling the job, such as someone who has access to a computer and is comfortable handling matters online and in person
- Make sure the person you choose can realistically handle the burden. Someone with four small children and a full-time job may not have time, even if they are willing.
3. Make an appointment to review your estate plans annually.
Know that the decisions you make about estate planning are not necessarily final. You can create a new will or power of attorney form that reverses your decisions or makes changes. Since life does change — with people coming in and out of it — it’s a good idea to review your estate plans annually to make necessary changes if desired. It’s also a good idea to review them if a major family change occurs, such as a birth, death, marriage or divorce. You may want to add or remove people from your plans in these cases.
4. Ensure your plans are accessible for the appropriate people.
Once you have a written estate plan and legal documents, make sure that the people who need to put those plans into action in the future have access to them. You might consider giving your executor a copy of the documents, for example.
It’s also important to consider smaller details that might not be documented within a will. One example is online accounts that may need handling. You can create a list of your online accounts, along with updated login and password information. Place it in a secure location, such as a locked filing cabinet. Make sure someone you trust knows you have important documents in a folder in that filing cabinet and that they should access it in your assisted living apartment if something happens to you.
5. Get help from a professional for complex matters.
You don’t have to handle estate planning on your own. If you’re unsure about where to start or want help with more complex estate matters, look for an estate planning attorney with an office near the Grand Villa assisted living community in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Posted on Thu, September 3, 2020
by Shawn Deane