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Senior Estate Planning

Take these steps to protect your family.

Take these concrete steps to establish an estate plan and consider what could happen if you become incapacitated before your death and are unable to handle your own affairs.

1. Make Your Will- If you don’t have a simple will, let us help you.

Children- If you have children under 18, name a personal guardian for them in your will. If both you and the other parent were unavailable, the local court would follow your wishes and appoint this person (absent a good reason not to) as guardian, to raise the children.

Assets- Your will directs who gets what after your death. You can make it simple—“everything to my children, to share equally”—or leave specific items to specific beneficiaries. You don’t have to leave anything to family members if you don’t want to, but if you’re married, know that a disinherited spouse could probably claim some of your assets.

2. Create Durable Powers of Attorney and a Living Will

Think about the possibility that at some time, you might become incapacitated and unable to handle your day-to-day financial matters or make healthcare decisions. If you don’t do anything to prepare for this possibility, a judge will appoint someone to have legal authority to act on your behalf.

To avoid an intrusive court proceeding, give someone you trust the legal authority to act for you. We do this for you by creating documents called durable powers of attorney, one for financial matters and one for healthcare. The person you choose is called your agent or attorney-in-fact. If you wish, you can even state that the documents won’t have any effect unless and until you become incapacitated. Once signed and notarized, it’s legally valid, and your mind can be at ease.

The documents you need are:

  • advance medical directive (living will)

  • durable power of attorney for health care

  • durable power of attorney for finances

A living will or advance directive gives directions to your health care providers about your wishes for end-of-life care, in as much detail as you wish. You might simply say that you want everything necessary to relieve pain (palliative care or comfort care) but don’t want to receive extraordinary measures such as CPR in certain circumstances. If you have a medical condition, you might go into more relevant detail.

You use a durable power of attorney (DPOA) for health care to give someone you trust the authority to carry out the wishes in your advance directive, and to make other medical decisions if necessary.

A durable power of attorney for finances gives someone authority over your assets. This can be a big benefit to family members—your spouse might need access to your checking account to pay the mortgage, for example. Without a DPOA for finances, your family would have to ask the court to appoint a conservator or guardian to handle your money, and submit to court supervision.

3. Check Your Beneficiary Designations

You’ve probably already named beneficiaries to inherit certain property from you. For example, when you signed up for a retirement plan at work or bought a life insurance policy, you were likely given a form on which to name a beneficiary. Now is a good time to revisit that paperwork. You should update your beneficiary designation periodically.