This is one of the many areas of senior estate planning that needs upkeep. Don’t leave it for decades as families change.
You should reevaluate when there are deaths, new births, marriages, remarriage, and divorces within the family. You may change the beneficiary based on the situation you find your family in. We all know how complicated families can become.
Letter of Intent
The letter of intent may not be valid in terms of the law. It isn’t technically a legal document. However, it does help during probate. Probate judges will almost always take the letter of intent into consideration. It can also be vital if there is a problem along the way when distributing your assets. So what is it?
Simply put, a letter of intent is a document left to the executor of your will in order to define what you plan for specific assets or to make specific arrangements after your death. This is a space for miscellaneous requests. It can be the correct space for making funeral arrangements or requesting specifics such as this.
The letter of intent is also key for other reasons. It can allow you to request what is done with specific assets. Let’s say you have a specific painting that has sentimental value. You can request that this is left to someone you wish to have it within the letter of intent.
Some people don’t have a letter of intent in their will, but it is recommended. It doesn’t take a lot to put together a letter of intent and it can prove to be a crucial component in the senior estate planning process.
Healthcare Power Of Attorney
We’ve already briefly mentioned this. Healthcare power of attorney is passing on the decisions regarding your healthcare to someone you trust.
They will be able to make decisions legally when you are no longer able. This can vary from what types of treatments you may require, but commonly relate to end-of-life care.
Aspects such as when to turn off life support are a big part of the healthcare power of attorney (HPOA). This isn’t something for the faint-hearted as it can be a difficult task, but it is vitally important nonetheless.
When designating HPOA, don’t just think about the decisions that are being made, think long and hard about the effect it may have on the person you are asking to make these decisions. It is bound to be an emotional time.
This is a clause placed within wills and trusts. It is not relevant for everyone and usually applies to minor children, or if you are trying to have kids when creating a will.
This is where you outline what you want to happen to the people who rely on you in the event of you passing away. It is vital at any age if you have children, as it means you have a say in their future should the worst happen to you.
Though not relevant to every will, if this clause does need to be included it is arguably the most important aspect of senior estate planning. You need to ensure that you make the right, most sensible decisions for your children.
Choose carefully when you are deciding upon a guardian. Think about the health they are in, how they view the world, whether they can afford children, and whether they even want to. In many cases, it will be instantly very obvious to who you wish to give this power.
It can be a sibling or a friend. Often, people look for a family of a similar age to take on guardianship. Older people may become unwell and this can lead to even more hardship for the children.
You can name a backup, too. In the event that your first choice is unwilling or unable to take on the children, a backup may be vitally important.
If you don’t create these designations then you are giving up your say in the future of the children. The worst-case scenario is that the court can then mandate your children to become wards of the state. They may end up in care that you would not have outlined as being suitable or appropriate for them.
Common Senior Estate Planning Mistakes
There are mistakes people constantly make in their estate planning. This is one of the most important pieces of planning you will do, especially if you have a family, so you need to make sure you don’t fall foul of the common planning mistakes.
Failing to Review Your Estate Plan
One of the most common things we see is not reviewing the plan. Situations change and you need to change with them. When there is a divorce, a death in the family, a new marriage, or children are born, it is important to review certain aspects of your estate planning.
Somehow, some people fail to create an estate plan whatsoever. It is easy to assume that people will just leave your stuff to your next of kin and it will be distributed fairly, but when money is involved you should not take that chance.
When guardianship of your loved ones is involved you certainly shouldn’t be taking any chances whatsoever.
Failing to Hire a Professional Estate Planner
Another mistake we see regularly is people failing to work with professionals. You do have the option to try and create an estate plan yourself, but this is much more difficult, and you need to establish a lot of knowledge of the laws.