If Momma is like 70% of the rest of America, she has never done any proper estate planning at all. If she has anything at all, it’s probably just a Will. In all likelihood, she and your Dad prepared basic paperwork back when he was in the Military. (You were probably 5 years old at the time.) At best, she may have a very old Power of Attorney. This is plan is long since finished and forgotten.
However, a very old estate plan tells you little about your condition today. Similar to results from a doctor’s appointment from 20 years ago; personal circumstances and laws change over time. Out-of-date planning reflected what Mom or Dad was thinking in 1962. However, things have probably changed just a tad since then.
Out-of-date planning may have more issues than just unsuitable clauses – it may also be very counterproductive. Inappropriate planning can reference out-of-date laws and name wrong persons as trustees, executors or beneficiaries. Back then, you may have intended a specific role for a person at that time. However, times change. Individuals may be deceased (or worse!) or you no longer want them act on your behalf or receive your money at death.
Why Do I Need to Do This Now?
One big and obvious reason is that you don’t know when you are going to die. But a very close 2nd is that you could become incapacitated before your death. The Alzheimer’s Associated (https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures) states that 1 in 3 Seniors dies with Alzheimers or another related dementia. Most people suspect these statistics are talking about someone else – not them! But, on the off chance this applies to us, it is critical to do whatever planning is necessary while you still have the capacity to do so. If you fail to plan, you forfeit the right to choose.
OK, I will get off of my soapbox now, but this is one of my life’s greatest frustrations. I see so many people who simply do not plan, lose capacity, and leave a real mess to their kids. If your folks have capacity and have not planned, OR if you are a Senior reading this and you have not planned (yet), please see your local Elder Law Attorney today to have your documents (if any) reviewed. Or, start from scratch and craft an Estate Plan that works the way you want. Proper planning is the only way to make sure that the person(s) you choose are handling your business and making decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself.
Having Appropriate Legal Documents
Only meeting with your Elder Law or Estate Planning Attorney will show the specific legal documents appropriate for YOUR situation. Remember, legal documents are just tools to be used to achieve the result that you want. After meeting with you, your attorney will be able to suggest the best route for you to take. Likewise, you will also know the appropriate documents needed to walk the path to successful planning.
Generally, proper asset distribution at death would determined by using either the Last Will & Testament or Revocable Living Trust. If asset protection is part of the plan, and Irrevocable Trust may be appropriate.
In most cases of incapacity, it is important to have a plan to make sure your assets are managed properly. An incapacity trustee and a property power of attorney (both of whom would be appointed in your trust if that is part of your estate plan) are the best bet for proper utilization of money and assets.
Healthcare Documents are Equally Important
It is also important to discuss what healthcare documents may be needed in the event you are incapacitated. Proper health care documents are the only way to ensure your health care needs are handled the way you want. In general, you should plan to have a Health Care Power of Attorney. Only by appointing the person that you would want to make Healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions will you be assured of your wishes being fulfilled. You may also need a Private Living Will and HIPAA Authorization.
If you have done Bridge of Life Planning, you may desire certain Life Care Provisions Incorporated in your trust documents. A separate Life Care Plan may also be in order. Make sure that any potential corporate trustee will commit to helping you achieve the goals of your Care Journey Plan. Sometimes, the only way to assure the fulfillment of your Care Journey Plan is appointing a corporate trustee or Life Care planner. If the trustee is not able or willing to either carry out your care Journey plan themselves, you may have to select a different trustee or make arrangements to appoint a Life Care Planner to serve in this capacity.
Hopefully you have read this Bridge of Life Blog series. If not here’s your chance.
In Bridge of Life Planning (Pt. 1) we discussed the Pillar of Preferences. These topics are not only for your parents to think about and plan for – this applies to you too!
In Bridge of Life Planning (Pt. 2) we discussed How to Help a Parent Get What They Want During a Decline in Health. If they don’t say it (in writing), in may not happen.
In Bridge of Life Planning (Pt. 3) we reviewed the 5 Things You Need to discuss with your Financial Planner when you are coordinating your finances with your estate plan. You may have stated your preferences, but if you don’t have a coordinated financial plan to pay for what you want, it is less likely to happen.
In Bridge of Life Planning (Pt. 4) we discussed the power of governmental benefits planning. If you don’t have the resources to pay for your care personally, don’t despair! Create a plan where the financial portion will be paid with various benefit programs.
All of the pillars of a Bridge of Life Plan are necessary to have a well thought-out and working plan. If you miss a piece, you have increased the chances that your plan won’t work. But if you get everything in place, you have greatly increased the odds that your assets will be used as you wish during your lifetime and will pass as you wish at your death.
Take the time to talk it out.
If you don’t take the time to talk these things out, and your Loved One loses capacity and is unable to make their own decisions, how do you know that you are doing the right things – the things that they would want? If you have never had this discussion, then you don’t know. The planning document that we prepare in the process of determining preferences is called the Care Journey Plan. In the process of doing this type of planning, we flesh out answers to the above questions and more.
Watch our Blog for details on our soon to be launched Membership Site where we will have much more to say about Bridge of Life Planning and other issues that you encounter daily while you continue to do your great work for the benefit of your Loved One. Keep up the Great Work!
What About YOUR Plan?
And if you are one of the adult children reading this, now is the time to do your plan. Don’t wait until you’re too late to do the type of planning that would be necessary to make a real difference for your family. Thanks for reading this last segment of the Bridge of Life Planning process. If you missed any of the other segments (or just want to see David’s collection of awesome bridge photos), this all can be found on our website at www.helpmehelpmomma.com.
In the meantime, feel free to download our FREE 2-page Overview entitled The Power of a Coordinated Bridge of Life Plan. This Overview shows (on one page!) the primary steps of the Bridge of Life Planning process and how to pull it together.
Until next time, keep up the great work with your Bridge of Life Planning process.