Senior Estate Planning: Crucial Steps to Address and Mistakes to Avoid

Estate planning is important at any stage[1. “The Importance of Succession Planning,” April 1, 2014,] of your adult life. But it is probably most important for those who are retired since they have accrued assets they may want to leave to heirs. They may also have specific ideas about what type of care or treatment they want at the end of their lives.
Getting one’s affairs in order can seem daunting at first. However, with a little research and persistence, older adults can craft a plan that meets their needs and those of their loved ones. But it’s just as important to know what not to do since simple errors can cause hassle and heartache later on. Take a look below at some of the most common senior estate planning mistakes — and the steps you can take to avoid them.

What not to do when it comes to estate planning

Fail to make an advanced medical directive and choose a healthcare power of attorney (POA). An advanced directive lets an older adult make end-of-life decisions before they become an issue. For instance, you can decide whether or not you want to be kept alive by artificial means, and under what circumstances. A healthcare POA lets a person name someone to make these and other decisions for them if they are unable to do so.
Don’t forget to make sure your family has all of your insurance information as well — they’ll need it when coordinating your care. Most older adults in the U.S. are covered under Medicare. You can quickly find out more information about your coverage by visiting their website, which is easier to use than ever before, thanks to streamlined and intuitive design.
Fail to make a durable power of attorney (POA). Similar to a healthcare POA, a durable POA names someone the older adult trusts to make legal and financial decisions for them. This allows the selected individual to pay your bills, transfer money on your behalf, and handle other matters with your interests and wishes at heart. The POA stays in effect in the event that the principal (the person whom it’s about) becomes physically or mentally incapacitated.
Fail to talk to family about estate planning. Loved ones won’t be able to follow wishes for your care or estate if they don’t know what those wishes are. This is the time to discuss the important steps above, in addition to making a will and discussing who will be the estate’s executor. At the very least, family members should know where important documents are kept. This is so that they can be easily accessed in an emergency, or if the author of the documents passes away suddenly.
Fail to pre-plan funeral arrangements. Although it’s something no one likes to discuss, pre-planning a funeral is often part of estate management. Rather than being disheartening, these types of arrangements take the burden off the surviving family members. In this way, it can be an intangible gift to them, sparing a great deal of stress and sadness. It also allows the older adult to include ceremony details that are meaningful to them. For instance, they may choose the exact type of service they’d like (or forego a service), request that particular songs be played, or any other particulars they feel are important.

Don’t put off senior estate planning

The last and biggest senior estate planning mistake is putting it off. The longer you do so, the lower the odds are that the estate will be handled to your satisfaction. It’s also possible that one’s estate planning needs will change over time. That’s why it’s prudent to have a regular review of important documents and decisions. Updating them and alerting family members and medical providers is also an important step. By taking these precautions, you can vastly increase the likelihood that your goals and wishes for the estate will be met.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.

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