Why You Need an Estate Plan NOW: Planning for an Uncertain Future
By Kate Silburn, Attorney, Rocky Mountain Elder Law ~
Many of us tend to procrastinate on estate planning, thinking we don’t need it because we’re healthy or not facing immediate concerns. However, life is unpredictable, and unforeseen events, such as illness or dementia, can disrupt our plans. While hoping for the best, we need to prepare for the worst, and estate planning is a crucial aspect often overlooked. The risk of leaving our loved ones burdened with complex legal processes and financial uncertainties is too great to ignore or put off. I always say it’s never too early to start thinking about estate planning, but it might be too late.
The Consequences of Inaction
If you become incapacitated without Powers of Attorney, the consequences could be grave. Your loved ones may need to resort to court proceedings for a Guardianship or Conservatorship, a costly and time-consuming process. If you suddenly pass without a will, your assets may end up in intestate proceedings, leaving them to heirs you may not have chosen.
Tailoring Your Legacy: Beyond Documents
However, estate planning is not just about paperwork; it’s about leaving a legacy and ensuring your wishes are carried out. It is not just your money; it’s also about who will make decisions regarding your care and your finances for you. This involves designating beneficiaries, creating wills, and considering the implications of common-law marriages, especially in states like Colorado.
Ultimately, it’s about being clear in your head, your heart, and your spirit that things will be taken care of in case you can’t handle them. You will know that there is someone in place whom you trust to handle all of that so that your home and your assets are looked after.
Considering Your Entire Family
Estate planning extends beyond immediate family, including considerations for stepchildren and pets. Planning for the care of animals and making financial provisions for their well-being are often overlooked but crucial aspects of estate planning. You would be surprised at how often people forget about their animals. For example, making plans for parrots is very important. They can live over 100 years, so it’s important to create some kind of trust vehicle to manage the care of that animal. It can also give you a sense of peace about how things will go if something happens.
Addressing Long-Term Care
Long-term care is a reality many of us face at the end of life, and planning for it is essential. Whether considering long-term care insurance or Medicaid planning, having conversations and making arrangements well in advance can help prevent future financial strain. Unfortunately, all long-term care insurance can be expensive, but if you’re young enough to get it and you can afford it, please get it. Most people don’t have it, so they are faced with either planning for a need for Medicaid or self-pay. It’s really important to consider the costs of long-term care and to also consider what kinds of steps you can take to protect certain assets from the purview of Medicaid well in advance, at least five years in advance of applying for Medicaid.
The Importance of Conversations
Initiating conversations about end-of-life wishes, healthcare decisions, and asset distribution is vital. These discussions ensure that your chosen agents for powers of attorney and trustees understand your values and can make informed decisions on your behalf. If you’re thinking about a loved one who needs an estate plan, rather than your own, we have advice on how to (and how not to) talk to family members about estate planning. It can be a sensitive subject, and so needs to be done carefully, and with empathy.
Comprehensive Estate Planning
Beyond a simple will, comprehensive estate planning involves trusts, powers of attorney, living wills, and documents addressing specific situations like dementia. It’s about creating a roadmap for your legacy and providing clear directions for your financial assets, property, and personal items. I have a list of nine separate elements that I cover in my estate planning because I believe estate planning isn’t just about what happens after you die, it should also make the end of your life as comfortable as possible. These elements are:
- Your will;
- Financial Power of Attorney;
- Medical Power of Attorney;
- Living Will;
- Planning for Dementia;
- HIPAA Release;
- Last Wishes Declaration;
- Nomination of Guardians & Conservators;
- Docubank – cloud storage of medical directives to give doctors access.
Taking Action Today
To start your estate planning journey, conduct a basic inventory of your assets, consider beneficiaries, and ensure your wishes are clearly documented. Consulting with an experienced estate planning professional can help tailor a plan that reflects your values and provides peace of mind.
In conclusion, estate planning is not just a precautionary measure; it’s a gift to your loved ones, ensuring they can navigate the complexities of life with clarity and confidence.
Don’t wait for tomorrow, start planning for your legacy today.
If you would like to find out more about Rocky Mountain Elder Law’s estate planning services, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.