“A long life is a great gift, but with the joys come some financial and legal challenges. The earlier you act to address them, the better off you and your heirs will be.”
Given the happy fact that you should expect to live a long time, what can you do to protect yourself and your family? Here are four steps:
Have a plan for long-term plan. For a married couple, it’s likely that one of the two will end up in a nursing home. Plan for how you’ll manage to pay for that, long before you’ll need it. If you can purchase a long-term care insurance policy, while you are still healthy enough to qualify, you won’t need to use up all the household’s money to pay for the care. Long-term care insurance usually pays for both skilled nursing home care and in-home health care aides.
Traditional long-term care policies can be expensive. However, insurance companies have created hybrid policies that combine long-term care benefits with life insurance. If you don’t use the long-term benefits, your loved ones receive the life insurance proceeds upon your death. That takes a way the worry that you will pay premiums and get nothing back.
Plan for incapacity. You’ll need to have a medical advance directive, including a health care proxy and health care powers of attorney, so you can name another person to make your decisions when you are no longer able to do so. Do not assume that because you are married, your spouse will be legally able to make those decisions.
If you become incompetent and don’t have a medical advance directive in place, your family will need to go to court to get legal authority to make those decisions. This is a guardianship proceeding, which is expensive, time-consuming and stressful.
The same holds true for financial decisions. You’ll want a power of attorney, so someone else can sign on your behalf and access your accounts. This should be a trusted individual who will look out for you and your family.
If you die and assets are solely in your name, your family will need to go to court before they can access any of your assets. This is the process known as probate. If you have an estate plan in place, your plan should include having some accounts that are POD or Payable on Death, so your loved ones are not left without assets. Your estate planning attorney will recommend the right planning tools, so that your family is protected.
Finally, do your tax planning as part of your estate plan. You likely won’t be paying federal estate tax. However, chances are good that your state has an estate tax or an inheritance tax. An estate planning attorney will be able to minimize those taxes through techniques like credit shelter trusts, gifting during lifetime or moving to another state.
Reference: Kiplinger (August 13, 2018) “Are You Ready for Longevity? 4 Steps to Take Now”