A lot of people assume that they can put their estate planning responsibilities behind them if they take the time to draw up a simple will. This is certainly better than nothing, but there are some other details that should be taken into consideration, and we will look at a few of them here.
You may be surprised to hear that about three out of every 10 people that are 85 years of age and older have Alzheimer’s disease. This is a significant percentage, and over half of elders in nursing homes die with dementia that is caused by Alzheimer’s or another condition.
In addition to cognitive impairment, there is another type of incapacity. People that are suffering from devastating illnesses may not be in a position to manage their own affairs.
If you do not take any steps in advance to prepare for this eventuality, the state could ultimately appoint a guardian to act on your behalf. You would become a ward of the state, and most people would say that this is not a very appealing prospect.
With the above in mind, you can make your own choices with full dignity if you implement an incapacity plan, and advance directives for health care will be part of the solution. With a living will, you state your preferences regarding the use of life-sustaining methods.
Situations can arise that are not related to life-support while you are incapable of making decisions. To account for this possibility, you can name a representative to make choices on your behalf in a durable power of attorney for health care.
A provision in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevents doctors from communicating medical information with anyone other than the patient unless a HIPAA release is signed. You should definitely include one of these documents in your incapacity plan.
Since we are talking about details that are sometimes overlooked, we should also point out the fact that these protections apply to adults of all ages. If you have an 18-year-old child, you should urge them to sign a HIPAA release to give you the ability to access their records.
There is also the matter of financial decision-making. You can name a disability trustee to assume the role if it ever becomes necessary if you have a living trust. A durable power of attorney for property can be added to account for property that has not been conveyed into a trust.
If you do not have a turnkey support system and you own a pet, you may have some concerns in the back in your mind. What would happen to your trustworthy companion if you passed away unexpectedly?
This question is very relevant to a lonely senior citizen that would benefit from pet ownership because they are experiencing a void in their life. Many elders would love to bring pets into their homes, but they have longevity concerns.
Fortunately, there is a solution in the form of a pet trust. To implement it, you fund the trust, and you name a trustee to act as the administrator. In the trust declaration, you explain the way you want the pet to be cared for if you die first.
The trustee would have the fiduciary duty to follow these instructions to make sure that your wishes come to fruition. If a remainder is left in the trust after the death of the pet, it would go to a successor beneficiary that you name when you establish the trust.
Letter of Final Instruction
When you are planning your estate, you should consider the tasks that must be completed by the executor or trustee. They will need certain information, like the location of important papers, keys, and login information for your online accounts.
You should ask yourself what they will need to know and provide it in a letter of final instructions. In addition to the above, you can include contact information for people that should be notified about your death and your preferences with regard to your final arrangements.
We Are Here to Help!
As you can see, there are important details that you may overlook when you are planning your estate. Plus, there are different ways to facilitate asset transfers, and the right course of action will depend on the circumstances.
We can gain an understanding of your situation and make the appropriate recommendations so you can make fully informed decisions. At the end of the process, you will come away with a custom crafted plan that ideally suits your needs.
You can schedule a consultation at our Bluffton, SC estate planning office if you call us at 843-815-8580, and you can use our contact form if you would rather send us a message.
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