Retirement. You have arrived. Congratulations! Just a moment ago you were in your Peak Earning Years. How did you get to this place in life so quickly? Yikes! What do you need to do right now in preparation for that day?
This is often an exciting, yet bittersweet time of life.
Chances are good that all of your children have left the nest with lives and growing families of their own. If they are living, perhaps you are becoming parents to your parents (or the surviving parent) just like their parents before them. This includes taking care of their personal, health care and financial responsibilities.
This would be a good time to create (or revisit) your estate plan and make sure your adult children and parents have their legal ducks-in-a-row. After all, you likely have witnessed what can happen when families are not up-to-date with their estate planning.
Unfortunately, many married couples mistakenly believe that they can make personal and financial decisions for one another should either spouse become legally incapacitated due to a serious injury or illness. Nothing could be further from reality!
Without proper estate planning in advance to appoint your spouse as the incapacity decision-maker, he or she will not have legal authority to make even fundamental decisions for you (or affecting both of you). For example, medical privacy laws will bar access to your medical records, financial laws limit control over your finances, and IRS regulations will prohibit filing a “legal” joint income tax return … for starters.
Unless you legally appoint the decision-maker of your own selection in advance through proper estate planning, then a judge will select one for you. While the judge will likely appoint your spouse, the court process (known as a guardianship proceeding) to accomplish this is expensive (it often employs at least three attorneys), makes your private personal and financial information a public record and is a real hassle for your spouse and family.
Did you know that in the absence of proper estate planning, your assets may be distributed after death based on “one-size-fits-all” state laws written for people who do not have their own estate plan? Of course, this impersonal estate plan written by state lawmakers may not reflect your own unique circumstances and objectives for your spouse, family and assets.
In fact, depending on how you titled your assets and how your beneficiary designations are arranged, you may have disinherited your own spouse and force your spouse to essentially sue your estate!
When it comes to your children and grandchildren, great care should be given to protect any inheritance both for them and from them. For starters, wealth representing a lifetime of your hard work and thrift can be squandered in very short order. Dollars earned are spent differently than dollars inherited. In addition to good, old-fashioned squandering, an inheritance can quickly vanish through divorces, lawsuits and bankruptcies.
Fortunately, with proper (and very careful) estate planning, you can provide an inheritance that is protected for and even from your own children and grandchildren. Remember, two things you cannot choose in life are your own folks and the spouses of your children.
Have you noticed how expensive the continuum of care is? From in-home assistance to assisted living to skilled nursing the expenses can destroy savings and investments created over a lifetime of hard work and thrift.
Now that you are planning for retirement, do not delay. Consider the establishment of a Medicaid Trust to protect your assets from the reach of nursing homes. Alternately, lock-in a long-term care insurance policy while you are still able to qualify physically and mentally. Some versions of coverage only pay if you need long-term care assistance, but others can now do double-duty and turn into life insurance if you do not need such assistance. That is a popular alternative to traditional long-term care insurance.
According to sources, there is a 70% risk of needing long-term care once you reach age 65. Curiously, 70% of people think they will not be among those 70% needing care and 70% of people incorrectly think Medicare will pay for it! We do not want to be in that 70%! If you will need assistance with the activities of daily living (e.g., eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and transferring), then you may want to hire a professional to take care of you instead of your children.
When you are ready for help with your long-term care planning through the establishment of a Medicaid Trust or purchase of long term care insurance, then we can help you.
Fortunately, you can help you avoid a guardianship proceeding and replace that impersonal, state-written, one-size-fits-all estate plan with one we design together for your unique circumstances and objectives.
We even help you coordinate the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement plans with your estate plan to avoid unpleasant, unintended consequences.
If you have a question, a comment, or simply want to have a conversation and explore how we can help, we'd love to hear from you.