Regardless of age or wealth, every adult should create an estate plan. Although many people are uncomfortable thinking about end-of-life issues, avoidance only places the weight of responsibility on loved ones.
It might help to shift your view of estate planning as a gift to your family – and a way to ensure your decisions are honored, during and after life.
What is estate planning?
Estate planning is the documentation and instructions of what will happen to a person’s estate, including real estate, bank accounts, life insurance, stocks, retirement accounts and personal belongings.
But it also addresses critical personal preferences, such as naming your heirs and beneficiaries, deciding on your advance healthcare directives and appointing trusted individuals to carry out your wishes. It may also protect your heirs from an estate tax burden and avoid probate court where a judge might determine distribution of your assets instead of you.
Estate planning documents
The following documents may be included in an estate plan. Consulting with an estate planning attorney or financial adviser is advised:
Provides details on preferred medical treatments if you were unable to express your own decisions.
Last will and testament
Specifies how you want your assets and personal belongings distributed upon your death.
Financial power of attorney
The individual you name to control your financial affairs if you’re unable to manage them yourself.
Medical power of attorney
The person you designate to make medical decisions if you are unable.
A legal agreement that allows a trustee to manage assets on behalf of your named beneficiaries.
Assisting your older loved ones with estate planning
Adult children are often in the position of making or supporting future financial or healthcare decisions. If your parents haven’t completed an estate plan, it’s recommended to have the discussion now about their wishes.
The following steps can guide the process:
Step 1: Have the conversation
- Have the conversation when your parents are still healthy
- Be transparent with other siblings
- Take notes to track details and any changes
- Empathize and acknowledge this is a difficult conversation
- Be a good listener
- Consult with an estate planning attorney
Step 2: Help determine estate planning goals
The following are a few common objectives:
- Passing money and property to loved ones quickly
- Avoiding probate court
- Avoiding unnecessary legal fees and taxes
- Documenting medical preferences
- Maintaining control of finances after passing
- Naming someone to distribute your assets
Step 3: Record the value of assets and debts
Document all assets minus debts. If the estate isn’t large enough to meet your loved ones’ goals, they might consider paying off debt, selling assets or purchasing a life insurance policy.
Step 4: Select beneficiaries
Beneficiaries are who your parents will choose to receive their money and property as well as document what they receive and when.
Step 5: Select a successor trustee or personal representative
This person will execute the estate plan and is responsible for:
- Paying debts
- Filing necessary paperwork
- Distributing assets
- Handling any end-of-life plans
Step 6: Select a financial power of attorney
If your parents become unable to manage their financial affairs, this allows access. If no one is appointed, your family will need to petition the probate court for conservatorship.
Step 7: Select a patient advocate or medical power of attorney
This person would direct medical care if your parents became incapacitated. Creating a Living Will documents their specific wishes such as:
- Medical preferences
- Palliative care
- Donation of organs
- Religious preferences
Step 8: Gather documents
The following documents may be needed when creating an estate plan:
- Bank account information
- Insurance information
- Beneficiary designations
- Birth certificates, marriage and divorce documents
- Investments and share certificates
Step 9: Document burial wishes
Discuss and create plans regarding final arrangements and services
Step 10: Discuss long-term care planning
Along with planning for an estate, preparing for the future is also vital as injuries or illnesses that require long-term care are often unexpected. Discuss options including if only one parent needs care, how it would be funded and whether the other parent would be able to remain in the home.
Source: Rochester Law Center
Assisted Living at Seaside Hallandale Beach
We’re here to answer any questions you may have about senior living and invite your family to see how our community can encourage and promote a higher quality of life.
We encourage you to visit Seaside Hallandale Beach, which is designed to provide activities and social opportunities to help our residents in reaching their wellness goals.
Supporting our residents to age well, we believe you or your parents will enjoy the services and amenities available in our pet-friendly community:
- A monthly social calendar of activities
- Beautiful common spaces to socialize
- Weekly housekeeping
- A spacious courtyard
- An outdoor pool with a covered patio
- Personalized fitness and wellness programs
- Scheduled transportation
- Easy and safe access to the beach