Are there special considerations for elders in estate planning?
Our law firm encourages individuals at every stage of life to take a proactive approach to estate planning. Ideally, we prefer to set up a will, trust(s) and/or non-probate assets early in an individual's career. When significant life events occur, those documents can be modified to reflect changes in financial or life circumstances.
The assets of individuals who pass without a valid will or trust will likely have to go through probate, where a court will apply the state laws of intestacy. For that reason, even estate planning begun later in life is better than never. However, elders should heed several considerations when approaching this issue for the first time.
In addition to a will and an inventory of non-probate assets, it's a good idea for elders to complete a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act form to grant someone access to their health information, should the need arise. Without that HIPAA release, a relative may not be able to get information about a loved one's condition.
Closely related to a HIPAA release is a living will, where an individual can specify the type of medical treatment he or she wants in the event of incapacity or the inability to communicate. The document allows an individual to designate a health advocate who can follow the directives and make any additional decisions, as needed, regarding life-sustaining efforts.
Finally, a signed power of attorney form can also accompany a living will, allowing the health advocate or another designated individual to handle any financial affairs during the individual's period of incapacity. Check out our website to learn more about how our attorneys can help you create an estate plan.
Source: Financial Planning, "Estate Planning: Help Seniors Avoid These Mistakes," Katie Kuehner-Hebert, May 12, 2015