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Seniors And Estate Planning

Seniors and Estate Planning

When it comes to establishing wills and estate plans, older Americans outpace their younger counterparts. Still, a significant number — 19 percent of those over age 72 and 42 percent of those between 53 and 71, according to survey data — lack any type of estate plan. After a lifetime of saving and earning for the individual’s future and often their family’s future, a person without an estate plan can lead to unintended and often unfavorable consequences.

Although managing these details can seem daunting, and even depressing, the task becomes far less unpleasant with proper understanding and planning. Estate planning is essential for seniors and for their family members to be prepared in the event of a loved one’s illness or passing.

If you or an aging loved one have been putting off estate planning, start with the basics and learn why it’s important take the focus off of the negative and shift it to the positive benefits.

Understanding the meaning of “estate”

In addition to the fear factor of planning for illness and death, many seniors dismiss its importance because they don’t understand what “estate” means, or they believe it applies only to those with significant wealth. In reality, an estate includes anything a person owns —  homes or other properties, bank accounts, automobiles and additional assets, and ownership of any licenses or patents.

A person’s estate also includes any liabilities such as mortgages. These debts will need to be settled before loved ones or beneficiaries receive any compensation or death benefits. An estate plan encompasses more than distributing assets and settling debts, however. It also outlines decisions about healthcare and other key things.

The estate plan’s role in self-advocacy

Estate plans help seniors establish important guidelines that allow them to advocate for themselves. This is essential for seniors who wish to retain their independence and protect their assets. In addition to creating wills and other important documents, an estate plan allows seniors to have a say in the quality of their long-term care — whether at home or in an assisted living facility — and to qualify for associated government benefits to help pay for that care. It also helps them to protect their life savings and outline their wishes should they become incapacitated.

Elder law attorneys can help clients develop strategies to enable seniors to better advocate for themselves in these scenarios.

What’s included in an estate plan?

A properly executed estate plan typically includes a Last Will and Testament, Living Will, and Medical and Financial Powers of Attorney. Let’s take a look at what each of these things are and the purposes they serve:

  • Last Will and Testament: Allows a person to determine who will inherit assets and appoint an executor who will make sure wishes are carried out. In Kentucky a parent or guardian may also recommend to the court who will be a surviving child or disabled person’s guardian after the parents death.
  • Living Will: Allows a person to choose the type of care he or she wants should they become hospitalized and/or incapable of making decisions independently. A Living Will would, for example, outline a person’s wishes about certain medical treatments, such as blood transfusions, or whether or not they wish to be resuscitated.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney: Appoints someone — generally a spouse or family member — to make decisions on a person’s behalf about medical care and treatment.
  • Financial Power of Attorney: Appoints someone — also typically a spouse or family member — who can make financial decisions on a person’s behalf. This includes allowing access to bank accounts to ensure bills and mortgages continue to get paid in the event of illness or incapacitation.

Establishing Trusts

Estate planning also includes provisions for developing Trusts. Trusts can be used for a variety of reasons:

  • To plan for reduce estate taxes
  • To maintain privacy in how you would like you would like your assets to be distributed
  • To providing for loved ones with disabilities, and
  • To protect your assets should you have to enter long term skilled nursing care.

While many trusts are revocable, meaning the senior can change or terminate the trust at any time, irrevocable trusts are often used to protect assets of a senior. Whether an irrevocable trust is right for your situation depends on a number of factors, including your health, what type of care you wish to receive and how you will pay for any care you may need in the future.

If you or your loved one has been avoiding this important planning measure, now is the time to begin. Being proactive increases options and makes the process far less stressful than trying to initiate planning or make important decisions during a health crisis or death.

The content of this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, current or representative of your geographic area. The above is not intended to be a solicitation for service  or legal advice and Rouse and Rouse, PLLC makes no warranty, expressed or implied, about the accuracy or reliability of the information in this blog, this website or in any linked website. A viewer of this content should not act or refrain from acting without seeking appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from an attorney licensed in the viewer’s state.

Jonathan

Jonathan Rouse began his legal career practicing Real Estate and Estate Planning law with Rouse & Rouse Attorneys, a practice with over 50 years of commitment to service in central Kentucky. Since joining the practice as a partner in 2016, he has expanded the scope of Rouse & Rouse to offer Elder Law services including Medicaid, Special Needs and Veteran’s Benefits planning. The inclusion of these services has allowed him to draw not only on his legal experience and education, but also on his previous experiences as a licensed social worker. As part of his dedication to working with seniors and their families, he works directly with his clients to learn not only about their concerns that bring them to his office, but also their personal and family experiences. This holistic understanding of clients and their families is key to providing complete and integrated legal services that address both the immediate and future needs of his clients. Key to Jonathan’s success is his direct involvement in the entire process from initial intake through the planning and maintenance services his office provides. His goal is to personally attend to you and your family’s needs.

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