Haims: Do not make your heirs curse you
For those who have not taken the time to educated themselves about end-of-life planning, chances are that heartache, turmoil, and family quarreling may be inevitable.
Estate planning does not only apply to wealthy individuals. If you or your aging loved one’s own property or other assets like stocks and bonds, it is important that you educate yourself with documents such as a will, advance directives, powers of attorney (both financial and health), and various types trusts. Kicking the can down the road and waiting for a better time, or until you’re “older,” can present formidable challenges. Sometimes, families can be broken apart from such choices.
For those who have not yet had to experience end-of-life discussions and planning, eventually you will. Don’t shy away from the hard discussions
Regrettably, outside of law school, there are few educational courses that teach people how to prepare for medical or financial emergencies in addition to the intricacies of the distribution of an estate. In 2015, an article in Forbes states that nearly 50% of Americans aged 55 and over have not created a will. The article also mentioned that less than 20% of people in that age group had health care directives and the proper types of power of attorney.
While those statistics are not great, it has not gotten much better. For many years, Caring.com in conjunction with YouGov has conducted a survey of Americans to determine who is engaging in estate planning. In 2017, 42% of those surveyed stated they had a will. In 2019 the percentage dropped to 40% and in 2020, it dropped substantially — 32%.
When it comes to estate planning, the stats are even more dismal. According to the 2020 caring.com/YouGov survey, only 16.4% of people surveyed who are 18-34 years old had estate planning documents. For those between the ages of 35 and 54 the percent increased to 37% and for those older than 55, the percentage was only nominally better at 47.9%.
Upon death, laws are quite specific about who can participate in health care and financial-related conversations and decisions.
The following are some of the documents one may need to have when developing an estate plan:
- General, limited, and durable power(s) of Attorney
- Springing power of attorney
- Disability trusts (children of passing parents)
- Irrevocable/revocable living trusts
- Living will
- Advance care directive
- HIPAA consent form
Proper and timely estate planning can really help during a time of family crisis. Preplanning will greatly assist family members and loved ones to know what medical and financial efforts you or your ill family member(s) would want. Further, having the proper documents in order will provide you and your family members the legal means to carry out those wishes.
At the end of the day, legal documents will not solve all problems. The best approach to developing a well-conceived “plan” starts with conversation and planning that occurs well before an unexpected issue arises. Speak with your partner, family, and sibling(s), about what your/their wishes.
Without proper legal documents, at best, assets may go to probate and tax implications may eat away at your wealth/inheritance. At worst, family and loved ones may see the most horrible in each other.
Be proactive — being reactive can be costly and sad. Rich or poor, or somewhere in between, nobody wants to create turmoil and heartache of their heirs. Although it may not be by intent, neglecting to put together the proper end of life documents can lead to time spent in court, arguing with a sibling and other family members, or fighting with financial institutions and health providers.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He can be reached at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.
Support Local Journalism
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User