Categorized | Features, Legal Matters

Your Estate Plan Should Match Your Life Stage

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Make sure that your estate plan is not outdated or inadequate to meet your current life stage. 

By Linda T. Cammuso

Having and estate plan that matches your stage of life is important. It’s not as simple as your age; it’s a big-picture analysis that takes into consideration the important people in your life (such as your spouse and children), your net worth, your health and your personal goals and concerns, and more.

As you enter your senior years, make sure that your estate plan is clear and — importantly, is ready to be executed when necessary. Consider what would happen if you become incapacitated and unable to handle your own affairs. Evaluating the exposure of your assets to a nursing home stay becomes a significant focus for you. Your existing plan might adequately address your familial circumstances and tax planning, but it could lack a long-term care/nursing home component.

As you enter your senior years, make sure that your estate plan is clear.

Make sure that your estate plan is not outdated or inadequate to meet your current life stage. Think about the following life stages and how they may impact your estate plan.

Single/Widowed Individuals

If you are unmarried and approaching your senior years, you should contemplate the risks of your assets going to a nursing home or long-term care expenses. Unmarried seniors who wish to preserve an inheritance for children or other beneficiaries face a set of stringent rules when it comes to nursing home spend downs. While the rules for married couples allow for last minute asset shifting, single individuals face a strict five year look back.

Irrevocable trusts are often the advance planning techniques of choice for sheltering assets from long-term care. Beyond the nursing home, unmarried seniors should also have proper (and recent) estate planning documents in place to ensure they have decision makers of their choice to manage health care and financial matters in the event of illness or incapacity. As individuals age, they should also pay special attention to ownership and beneficiary designations on assets to ensure that they are up to date — it is common, for instance, for a widowed individual to fail to update life insurance of IRA beneficiaries after the first spouse’s death.

Married Individuals

On the nursing home/ long-term care front, married couples generally have more flexibility and opportunities to protect assets. Even in a last minute nursing home scenario, that is, you can shift assets without a look back or penalty. With strategic and straightforward advance planning and the right provisions in your Wills, you can situate assets for maximum nursing home protection upon your spouse’s death. Beyond nursing home issues, many seniors have no (or very old) documents in place for lifetime decisions makers for health care and finances, leaving them vulnerable at a time when they are most likely to need assistance. If one spouse has dementia or other limitations, it is critical that they reexamine documents and ensure that children or others are named as alternate decision makers.

If your legal documents are outdated or inadequate to meet the situation listed above, it is important for you to contact an attorney who specializes in estate planning and asset preservation …  promptly.

Linda T. Cammuso is a founding partner of Estate Preservation Law Offices located in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is a skilled estate planning and elder law attorney and has authored many articles on elder care and long term estate planning issues. She has appeared on Money Matters Radio and has been a speaker for various community and professional organizations.

 

 

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