Most people believe that estate planning only applies to affluent families or superstars. The truth is that, regardless of wealth and age, everyone should have an estate plan to safeguard themselves and their loved ones and provide a clear path to resolution when a tragedy strikes.
Only 34% of American adults have an estate plan in place, but the need to create one has significantly grown in recent years due to the impact of COVID-19 and soaring inflation. What is estate planning for seniors, and what roles does it play in the life of a family?
To get started, we will guide you on the basics of estate planning, including key elements, a helpful checklist, and some considerations when setting one up.
Everything You Need to Know About Estate Planning for Your Parents
What Is Estate Planning?
As a part of a comprehensive financial plan, estate planning for seniors involves setting up a step-by-step process to arrange the management and disposal of their property and belongings, from houses, vehicles, business shares, and insurance policies to stocks, bank accounts, and any other valuable items.
Discussing estate intentions is all about how a person wants to handle their estate, whom they want to inherit their assets from, and how they want it to be divided or transferred to loved ones if something regrettable happens, like incapacitation or death.
Essentially, it is about ensuring your parents’ year-long financial legacy and cherished possessions are in good hands and used for the right purposes when they are no longer on Earth.
Estate Planning for Seniors: Why Is It Important?
Seniors are more vulnerable to age-related health risks, preventing them from making informed decisions about their property and well-being.
In such cases, conducting estate planning in advance while still mentally capable is highly encouraged for seniors. It is the most straightforward approach to outline their preferred medical treatments when falling ill and ensure their assets are handled efficiently.
Estate Planning for Seniors: Four Key Elements
Estate planning for seniors is often misidentified as wills. While a will is an integral part of an estate plan, some common elements of an estate plan include:
A will is a legally binding document to allocate the assets to the beneficiaries, accompanied by instructions informing them what steps they should carry out to fulfill the stated wishes. The testator can update their wills as often as they want while living; it only goes into effect when they die.
Most people use wills as the most typical way to leave behind their possessions and avoid possible disputes over inheritance. Without a will, the state will distribute assets according to federal law. Other forms of will include a living will (advance healthcare directives) and a pour-over will.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) helps to delegate the power to one or more candidates, so they can make financial decisions and take action on your parents’ behalf when they are too ill to do it themselves. The appointed person is granted complete control over your parents’ legal and financial affairs.
When planning an estate for your parents, consider healthcare and property power of attorney. While a healthcare POA is authorized over your parents’ medical treatment and healthcare services, a property POA handles and manages everything related to their money and property. To get a power of attorney for your parents, check here.
Trusts are similar to traditional wills, but it differs in a way that no probate process is involved. Developing a trust is a time-saving way for the beneficiaries to draw out the inheritance quickly. There are two types of trusts: (revocable) living and irrevocable trusts.
Durable Power of Attorney or Medical/Health Care Directives
A medical/health care directive entails all kinds of medical care and services your parents require to maintain their general wellness and well-being on the right track. In times of emergencies, it serves as a guide for your parents’ loved ones to communicate with the doctors, make time-sensitive medical decisions, and carry out end-of-life care.
Estate Planning for Seniors: A Complete Checklist & Issues to Consider
Before moving to the ultimate checklist, it is important to give your parents time to contemplate what they want to do with their estate and valuable items. Some questions regarding estate management they might want to have a look at include:
- What property and assets do I have?
- What debts do I have?
- Do I want to distribute my possessions evenly, or do I want to give certain items to certain family members?
- Who is the right person for the administrator role of my estate?
- Who is the most reliable to oversee my trust?
- Is there a family member who will benefit from my trust fund?
- Will my family and children need help with the funeral?
Since planning an estate requires attention to every detail and hands-on assistance from professionals and lawyers, the following table helps break down much-needed steps to get your parents’ affairs in order.
|1. Make a list of all assets||Record all physical assets, precious metals, insurance policies, annuities, brokerage accounts, and bank accounts.|
|2. Make a list of all debts||Including everything owed to lenders or banks.|
|3. Make copies of created lists||Create multiple copies for multiple beneficiaries.|
|4. Review retirement accounts||Retirement accounts are automatically passed down to the attached beneficiaries. Double-check to make any updates if needed.|
|5. Review annuities and insurance policies||Make sure all the information is accurate and up to date.|
|6. Set up joint accounts or transfer of death designations||Checking and savings accounts are transferred directly to the beneficiaries or surviving owner following the passing without probate.|
|7. Choose an estate administrator||The assigned person is liable for managing and monitoring financial affairs. Choose someone your parents trust.|
|8. Make a will||A will is a blueprint to instruct loved ones on what they should do next with the legacy left behind, such as making regular donations to NGOs or charitable groups. It also helps prevent familial disputes over assets.|
|9. Review all documents||Reviewing all the documents every few years or annually is encouraged, allowing your parents to make changes that are aligned with their evolving needs and wishes.|
|10. Send a copy of the will to the estate administrator||This measure takes out the second-guessing hassle if the will is nowhere to be found. Send one to the person responsible for the estate and keep one or more copies in a safe.|
|11. See a financial professional||An estate or financial planner can help review all documents and recommend the best plans to optimize estate planning strategies.|
|12. Consolidate accounts||Having accounts here and there is normal, but merging or moving them into one place is a smart idea. It offers greater convenience and allows beneficiaries to gain better access to the accounts.|
|13. Complete other financial documents||Appointing a trustworthy person to the role of power of attorney. They are responsible for finances, healthcare, living wills, and associated materials that help take care of the funeral and direct correct use of digital assets.|
|14. Consider other saving vehicles||Taking advantage of tax-saving instruments to ensure better future planning for children or disabled siblings and relatives.|
If you have questions about estate planning for seniors or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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