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Estate Planning: Answering Common Questions of Senior Citizens

Posted by Gregory Robinson | Aug 11, 2021 | 0 Comments

According to a study conducted by Caring.com, the percentage of people aged fifty-five and older who have created a will has fallen from 60 percent to 44 percent since 2019.[1] Although creating or updating your estate planning may seem like a daunting task, a proper estate plan can help address the concerns you may face as a senior citizen. We are here to help you.

Who can help me if I am unable to manage my own affairs?

According to a survey conducted by the US Census Bureau, approximately 69 percent of survey respondents who were age eighty-five and older had at least one type of disability.[2] As you get older, it is more likely that you may need assistance in handling your financial and medical affairs.

A financial power of attorney allows you to choose a trusted person (an agent or attorney-in-fact) to handle your financial matters (sign checks, pay bills, file taxes, etc.). Without a financial power of attorney, a court will need to appoint someone if you need someone to handle financial matters on your behalf. This can take time and money that may not be optimal in the midst of a crisis.

A medical power of attorney allows you to appoint a trusted person as your decision maker to communicate or make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so. If you do not have a medical power of attorney, the court may be required to name someone to make these decisions for you, costing your loved ones time and money and infringing on your privacy.

Can someone help me if I am out of town?

A recent New York Times article explored the trend of individuals over age sixty-five traveling more now that a COVID-19 vaccine is available.[3] Whether you are visiting loved ones in another state or crossing countries off your bucket list, you, too, may be traveling more now than you did before. However, the world does not stop just because you leave home for a period of time. A financial power of attorney can allow your agent to handle financial matters on your behalf while you are out of town. Although it may seem scary to allow another person to manage your financial affairs, take comfort in the fact that you can still act on your own behalf if you are able, and if your agent makes a decision you do not like, you can remove them as your agent. This means that you can go out of town and feel assured that your agent can handle your financial affairs, if necessary, while you are gone.

How do I protect my loved ones after I am gone?

Unfortunately, no one is immortal. At some point in time, you will pass away. Although you will no longer be with your family, you can still have a direct impact on your loved one's financial future. A trust is a great tool to hold the money and property you want to give to your loved ones. Whether the trust is a revocable living trust or a part of your last will and testament, it allows you to set aside a portion of your accounts and property for the benefit of a loved one. You can name someone to oversee the money and property and instruct that person on when and how the money and property must be used. When establishing a trust, there are a few different options for how your loved one can receive the money and property:

  • Outright distribution. The terms of the trust can instruct the trustee to distribute all of the money and property to your loved one or give your loved one the right to withdraw all of the money and property in their share of the trust at any time, without any strings attached.
  • At certain ages. You can dictate in the terms of your trust that a certain percentage be distributed to your loved one at different ages, such as one-third at age forty, one-half at age forty-five, and the remainder at age fifty.
  • After reaching certain milestones. If there are certain things you want your loved one to attain before receiving access to the money and property, you can instruct the trustee to distribute a certain percentage or amount once that milestone has been reached. Some milestones could include attaining a college degree or service in the military.
  • Leave it up to the trustee. If you are concerned about what your loved one may do with the money or if your loved one has a high-risk job, creditor issues, an unhealthy marriage, or an addiction, allowing distributions to be made only at the trustee's discretion is a good way to try to protect the money and property that you have set aside for your loved one. Provisions can be put in place so your loved one can receive enjoyment from the money and property, while protecting it from creditors and predators.

We want you to enjoy your golden years to the fullest. One way to make sure that you live a full and happy life is to address your concerns with a proper estate plan. To learn more about the ways in which we can help you and your loved ones, contact us at your earliest convenience.

[1] 2021 Wills and Estate Planning Study, Caring.com, https://www.caring.com/caregivers/estate-planning/wills-survey/ (last visited June 8, 2021).

[2] Andrew W. Roberts, et al., Dep't of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, The Population 65 Years and Older in the United States: 2016 (2018). https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/acs/ACS-38.pdf.

[3] Debra Kamin, A Different Early-Bird Special: Have Vaccine, Will Travel, N.Y. Times, Mar. 22, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/17/travel/seniors-covid-vaccine-travel.html.

About the Author

Gregory Robinson

Attorney Gregory Robinson is a native of Alabama. He earned his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Mitchell Hamline School of Law and holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Rice University. Prior to practicing law, he worked as a strategy consultant in the financial industry...

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