In 2009, approximately 42 million people in the United Stated regularly provided care to an adult who required assistance with daily activities. Another 61.6 million provided care at some point during the year. As the nation’s population ages, more Americans will likely be required to assist aging or disabled parents and other loved ones. Unfortunately, caregivers are not always authorized to make medical decisions for the people they provide assistance to.
One of the easiest and most important steps an individual can take is to create an advance care directive. An advance care directive will generally include a durable power of attorney, a living will, and name a health care proxy. A durable power of attorney will designate an individual to make financial decisions for an incapacitated person. A living will provides instructions for care at the end of a person’s life and will normally specify whether artificial measures such as life support should be used. A health care proxy is similar to a power of attorney except it designates someone to make medical treatment decisions for a person who is no longer able to make such decisions or communicate with doctors.
Understandably, discussing an aging parent’s medical wishes is not always easy. By creating an advance care directive, an individual may be able to alleviate some of the decision-making burden often placed on family members such as children. Oftentimes, loved ones may disagree with one another regarding an individual’s care, or children may have a difficult time making tough medical decisions for a parent. An advance care directive can eliminate emotional obstacles and prevent a caregiver from being required to petition a court for decision-making authority through a guardianship or conservatorship.
Over half of American adults and approximately 92 percent of adults under the age of 35 have not written a will. Most assume they do not need a will because any assets left behind will automatically be inherited by family members. Although assets may be distributed according to state intestacy laws, the process can be lengthy. With proper estate planning, however, you may be able to avoid placing any additional emotional or financial burden on your family after your death.
It is a good idea to create a will once you begin acquiring assets or start a family. In addition to designating how your assets will be distributed upon your death, your will designates an executor who will manage them until they are distributed. If you are a parent, you should also select a guardian who is likely to survive until your minor children reach the age of majority in the event both parents pass away.
Other useful estate planning documents include a durable power of attorney and a healthcare proxy. A durable power of attorney will allow your designee to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Similarly, a healthcare proxy allows a designee to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and cannot do so yourself. By designating a power of attorney or healthcare proxy, you may save your family from being required to take the matter to court in the midst of an unexpected healthcare crisis.
As you begin planning for retirement and doing general estate planning, do not overlook the importance of end of life health care planning.
With people living longer than ever before, the reality is that you may not be in a position to communicate what your wishes and desires are for health care as you near the end of your life. It’s important that these are set up ahead of time utilizing something like an advanced healthcare directive.
An advance health care directive is simply a written document that appoints another person to make health care decisions on your behalf when you are unable to. In many cases, this directive will spell out specific situations and how you want them handled, such as do not resuscitate orders.
The young often think of themselves as invincible in the sense that in their protected world, nothing bad can happen to them, especially with their parents around. Studies show that over 90% of adults under 35 do not have a will, providing reasons like:
- It’s not necessary.
- It’s too complicated for me to deal with right now.
- It’s too expensive.
- My parents will take care of all that.
- I won’t need it for a long time anyway.
- It takes too much time
According to surveys done by USA Life Expectancy, adults aged 15 to 34 rarely die from medical causes but the figures are high for accidents, poisoning, suicide, homicide, and injuries. This suggests that for young adults, death often comes unexpectedly. Continue reading
Top 5 Universal Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid
As the saying goes, “Death and taxes are something you simply can’t ignore.” Both are inevitable and although most people understand this phenomenon and in turn, prepare by paying their taxes on a quarterly or yearly basis and others set up their estates to ensure that their affairs are in order and their families are protected when they make their transition. For many, however, death is simply too scary, painful and heart wrenching and many people choose to not even think about it. Most realize that they will eventually pass on and have a general mental vision of what they want to happen to their estate but, for one reason or another, they fail to write it down or even when they do, they don’t keep it regularly updated. In fact, studies as recent as the last quarter of 2015 show that only 34% of Americans have a drafted will, while 69% have considered it but delayed doing anything concrete. Continue reading
Estate planning is an important topic for everyone. Accidents and serious medical conditions can arise suddenly and it is important to be prepared. The need for effective end-of-life planning impacts everyone, even the rich and famous. Celebrities help highlight the need to prepare your Wisconsin estate planning documents. Take for example Stieg Larsson, author of the highly successful Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Hollywood’s recent movie adaptation of the novel grossed more than $140 million. Unfortunately, Larsson died suddenly at age 50 from an unexpected heart attack. The author never prepared a living trust or will. Consequently, a lengthy legal battle over his $40 million estate ensued between his girlfriend of 32 years, with whom he shared a residence, and his family. Larsson’s estate was eventually awarded to his relatives.
Years later, Larsson’s family is still engaged in a court battle with his girlfriend over an unpublished novel that is allegedly in her possession. Larsson could have avoided the legal battle between his loved ones simply by preparing a living trust or will that clearly expressed how he wanted to divide his assets. By creating your Wisconsin living trust or will, you decide who receives your property and other assets upon your death. If you fail to provide for your loved ones in a trust or will, Wisconsin courts will distribute your estate according to Wisconsin intestacy laws, which may exclude certain people you would have wanted to include.
It is also crucial to create a health care power of attorney and a financial power of attorney well before any medical issues arise. If you are unexpectedly incapacitated, a health care power of attorney allows the individual you select to make any necessary medical decisions for you without heading to court. Making end-of-life medical and financial decisions can be tough on family members and often results in fighting. For example, although the late Etta James prepared a financial power of attorney that designated one of her sons as her decision-maker in 2008, her husband of 42 years challenged the document and claimed it was created after she became incompetent from dementia. Eventually, her husband and her sons reached an agreement regarding James’ care, but this does not always occur. You can protect yourself and your loved ones from legal battles by appointing medical and financial decision-makers well ahead of unexpected medical situations.
It can be difficult caring for elderly parents, especially if your parents are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Caring for elderly parents is a situation that more and more children are facing as the average age of senior Americans continues to increase due to the availability of better healthcare and improvements in lifestyle choices. Americans are living longer than ever before; therefore, it is important to discuss issues related to caring for elderly parents in addition to making end-of-life decisions.
While some senior citizens may have completed the estate planning process, your elderly parents may or may not have taken those steps. Furthermore, many senior citizens have a will or other estate planning documents that relate to probating their estate but they have failed to plan for incapacity prior to their death.
Matters You Need to Discuss in Anticipation for Caring for Elderly Parents
As you prepare your child to go to college, you are probably making a list of everything your child will need. Regardless of whether this is your child’s first year at college or his fourth year, every college student needs various things each year as they return to school. From school supplies to new clothes and dorm furniture to a new cell phone, the things your college student needs before going to college seems endless.
The one thing that many parents forget as they prepare their child to go off to college is the need for certain legal documents. Now that your child is 18 years of age, you do not have the same legal authority with regard to your child. Should something happen while your child is away at collage, you may need certain legal documents in order to take certain actions to protect your child’s best interest and welfare.
The three legal documents every college student needs as he or she goes to college are: Continue reading
According to financial planners interviewed for an article in USA Today, Baby Boomers are neglecting or simply ignoring the importance of estate planning. They are more focused on their retirement and focused on whether they will have sufficient income to provide for their needs and to do what they want during retirement. Ignoring the need to have an estate plan is not just a problem for Baby Boomers — no one really wants to think about their own death. People tend to put off estate planning because they think, “I will do that later.” Unfortunately for some, “later” is too late.
Why Do Baby Boomers Need to Have an Estate Plan?
Estate planning is an important part of your retirement plan. Your estate plan is more than telling your loved ones what you want to do with your property and financial assets after your death. Your estate plan also allows you to take care of your minor children, or grandchildren, and it allows you to make decisions about your medical care in the event you are unable to do so in the future.