At first blush, estate planning does not seem romantic. It is often a stressful topic, with the focus being on one’s mortality. A better approach is to re-frame the issue through this consideration: It is not about you but, instead, who you leave behind. Love is making the best decisions now to protect who and what matters to you most for the future.
Estate plans can be as straightforward as a last will and testament or, alternatively, a completely customized living trust plan to provide significantly more options, features, and benefits. A complete estate plan should include powers of attorney, health care directives, living wills, and more. Consultation with an attorney specializing in estate planning and elder law will provide you with the right combination of strategies to give the highest level of care and protection in these situations.
Five Ways to Provide Protection
1. Start planning now. Procrastination is your worst enemy. The earlier you begin planning, the sooner you can protect your loved ones, your life’s savings, business or ranch. The importance of incapacity planning cannot be underestimated to avoid lengthy and costly guardianship proceedings. And addressing how to preserve assets against the enormous costs of long-term care costs is vital: the sooner you start, the more you can protect.
2. Carefully choose your caregivers. This can be an especially difficult decision to make. Trusted family or close friends – even professional advisers – whom you trust needs to be decided upon as your medical and financial demands increase because of age or incapacity.
3. Talk to your family. It is important for your family to understand your wishes once an estate plan is completed. These conversations are necessary to make sure that the key decision makers know what to do if you become ill or when you die. Clear understandings are necessary about what you want for end-of-life decisions, how assets are to be distributed or managed, and who will serve as healthcare and financial caregivers.
4. Create an experienced team. Working with a team of trusted advisers – such as an attorney, financial adviser, tax adviser, insurance agent, physicians and care coordinators – will ensure that the best and most compassionate decisions are being made when you are most vulnerable or once you have died. Work with professionals who are willing to collaborate with and respect the expertise of other professionals from different disciplines.
5. Update your legal plan. As your life changes, so will your circumstances. Your estate plan needs to be reviewed and updated regularly to keep up with those changes. Avoid letting these important legal instruments grow stale. That can result in rejection by third parties and undesired outcomes.