While it is never pleasant to think about death, planning for the future is an act of love. If your senior loved one does not already have an estate plan in place—or if that plan needs to be updated—you can help your loved one and your family by raising the subject of estate planning. Having even a few basic documents in place can ensure that your loved one’s wishes are honored. Follow these four steps to jump start or update your senior loved one’s estate planning process.
1. Draft or update a will.
A will is the cornerstone of any estate plan. It is the document that spells out how someone intends to distribute his or her property after death. Why is it so important to have a will? If someone dies without a will, they are considered intestate, which means that the state’s law will distribute his or her property according to state rules. In some states, an entire estate passes to a spouse. In other states, an estate might be divided among a spouse and other relatives such as children. If your senior loved one lacks a will, or if that will was executed 30 years ago, consider hiring a lawyer for assistance in preparing or updating this important document.
2. Execute a living will.
While a standard will covers what happens after death, a living will establishes your loved one’s wishes in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated. Living wills are critical for seniors, who are particularly susceptible to incapacitating conditions like stroke and dementia. Talk to your loved one about a living will, and consider including a durable power of attorney and advance directive that authorizes specific family members to make legal, financial, and medical decisions in case of incapacitation.
3. Update insurance products.
Insurance is another key component of estate planning, as these products can provide much needed assistance to in-home caregivers. Whether shopping for long-term care or life insurance, make sure that you work with a fee-only (non-commission) financial planner or estate planner.
4. Consider reducing the estate itself.
Depending on your loved one’s individual estate, it may be worthwhile to consider the long-term tax consequences of the existing estate plan. Individuals may sometimes reduce the size of the estate by making certain non-taxable “gifts” to family members before death. The goal here is to minimize the tax burden on those ultimately inheriting the estate. A tax lawyer or accountant can advise you on how best to manage your loved one’s estate.
Although it may be unpleasant to raise these issues with your loved one, estate planning is part of overall financial health. Careful estate planning can even budget for things like long-term home care in North Houston and insurance, so remember that estate planning is not just about death—it is also about how best to live.
It’s never too early to be prepared. To learn more about long-term senior care, reach out to Home Care Assistance. We’re known for our hourly and live-in care, but we also specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia care for seniors in North Houston. Call 832-412-1345 and speak with a dedicated Care Manager who can tell you more about our services, our customized care plans, and help you get to know us better.