Estate Planning For Seniors: 5 Things You Need To Know

Estate Planning and Probate
March 2, 2021

Having discussions about end-of-life plans can be uncomfortable, awkward, and scary, so a lot of people avoid it entirely. In fact, the AARP estimates that 60% of Americans have not taken the important step of putting together estate planning documents. When it comes to estate planning for seniors, the numbers are a little more promising. Eighty-one percent of those over the age of 72 had taken this important step and 58% of those aged 53-71 had done so. 

That still leaves a lot of seniors without the protection they need. If you've been putting off estate planning and want to get started, here are some important things you need to know. 

1. Estate Planning for Seniors is a Benefit for Your Loved Ones

Some people put off estate planning because it seems like a burden to bring up heavy topics with their loved ones. The truth is that estate planning is a gift to those you love. As Betsy Simmons Hannibal, a senior legal editor, explains, "You're never going to really get the benefit of it. So you might as well think about how it's going to be a lifetime gift that you're giving now to your parents or your partner or your children."

Without the benefit of estate planning documents, your loved ones may be left with fewer legal options, disputes to sort through, and the emotional turmoil of trying to guess your wishes. 

2. Estate Planning is Not Just for the Rich

Another common misconception is that estate planning for seniors is only for those who have substantial wealth and lots of complicated accounts and assets. The truth is that everyone can benefit from estate planning. The good news is that those who do not have complex accounts will likely be able to complete estate planning much more quickly and easily. 

Having a few simple documents that make your wishes clear can ensure that things run smoothly for everyone involved. 

3. Naming an Executor is a Crucial Step 

An executor (also called a "personal representative" in some states) is a person who you have named (in writing) to take care of things after your death. This person should be someone you trust to carry out your plans in the way that you want.

This can also be a position that comes with a lot of responsibility, so it's a good idea to pick someone who is good at dealing with little details and who is thorough and careful. Some tasks that will likely fall to your executor include the following: 

  • Handling outstanding bills
  • Managing an outstanding mortgage
  • Paying taxes
  • Notifying financial institutions 

4. Estate Planning for Seniors is Not Just About Money

While the term "estate planning" usually brings to mind financial decisions, it actually encompasses far more than that. In fact, some decisions you make while estate planning could impact you while you are alive.

In the event that an illness or injury leaves you incapacitated, someone will have to step in to make decisions while you recover. This person is given what's called "power of attorney," and this far-reaching legal responsibility can help ensure that there is someone you trust making decisions for your well-being. 

Another part of estate planning is funeral arrangements. Some people find comfort in being able to direct the details of their future end-of-life services including general things like whether they'd like to be buried or cremated all the way to specific details like what clothing they would like to wear or what music they would like played. You can make these plans as detailed or as general as you'd like, but knowing that you have the autonomy to make these decisions can be empowering. 

5. Considering Beneficiaries is Important

When most people think about the impact of a will, they consider the beneficiaries — who will receive their assets when they die. Many people have goals they'd like to use their life earnings to meet. Whether you have plans to donate to charity, split money between children and grandchildren, or dedicate your resources to some other cause, estate planning helps ensure that your wishes will be fulfilled. 

It is also important to update your beneficiaries on a regular basis. Families change. Deaths, divorces, and births can alter your intended actions, and making sure that your paperwork reflects the current reality is important. 

Estate Planning for Seniors Provides Peace of Mind and Clarity

Estate planning can bring up difficult and complex emotions, but it is an important step in making sure that you get to control the things that are important to you and provide clarity for your loved ones. You don't have to do this work alone. Once you know that these documents are complete and reflect your wishes, you'll feel peace of mind. An experienced and caring attorney can help make things as simple and straightforward as possible. Reach out today to schedule a consultation.