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National Estate Planning Awareness Month: What You Need to Know About Estate Planning for The Elderly

By Jessica Deng

October is National Estate Planning Awareness month. Each October across the United States, individuals and families are reminded of the importance of creating and/or maintaining an estate plan. Creating a will or estate plan is essential for everyone, but especially important for seniors.Estate planning is the way a person can choose what happens to their assets. This can be done by the individual or a family member, and it’s the easiest way to make sure that possessions go where intended. There are several important aspects of estate planning, from wills and trusts to power of attorney. Today, we’ll be giving you an overview of estate planning essentials and what you need to know about them.

When it comes to an estate plan, there are four elements you want to address:

  • Your Will and Trusts
    • Will is a legal document used to transfer the estate to beneficiaries after the death of the person who enacted the will. A critical element of a will is naming the executor. The executor will be the person who makes sure the wishes in your will are carried out. A will should include a list of beneficiaries, a list of significant assets you want to leave your heirs, a list of your debts (mortgages, credit card debt, car loans, etc.), and the name of your executor.
    • A Trust is an entity or an agreement that allows the grantor (you) to transfer property to a trustee until your beneficiaries can claim it.
  • A Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney
    • A Living Will is a document outlining your wishes for your health and care if you are unable to communicate decisions regarding end-of-life treatment.
    • A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a document that is activated when you are unable to make or communicate decisions regarding your health care. In this document, you will name a person, such as a family member, or caregiver, whom you would like to make decisions regarding your health care if you are unable to do so.
  • A Financial Power of Attorney
    • A financial power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that grants a trusted agent the authority to act on behalf of the principal agent in financial matters.
  • Beneficiaries
    • Designating beneficiaries in your wills and trusts ensures that the people you want to provide for after passing are taken care of. Beneficiaries are the individuals or organizations you wish to inherit all or part of your estate. Common beneficiaries include spouses, children, grandchildren, close friends and relatives, and charities.

There are three primary goals to estate planning: maintaining control while living, distributing responsibly, and minimizing expenses.  While there are additional goals to estate planning, there are three major estate planning obstacles to avoid: probate, conservatorship, and estate taxes. Your family and friends must understand your goals and it can help identify how to successfully manage your asset base, ensure your wishes are met, and that essential tax planning is of a family memin order.

It’s important to periodically review and update your existing estate plan. Drastic changes in laws, especially estate tax changes at the federal level and life changes such as marriage, divorce, or the birth or death of a family member may make it necessary for you to revise your plan. We recommend consulting with an estate planning attorney or financial professional to help with the process or can make it more manageable.

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