Law and Order: complex issues of financial planning for the elderly

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | January 26th, 2017

Aging is not optional. While we can never really be prepared for all the physical and cognitive changes that may come our way, it is possible, and highly advisable, to prepare financially.

Helping loved ones cope with the many challenges of aging is frustrating, and facing tough conversations about the complex issues of financial planning is daunting. Broach the subject in small increments. As our parents transition from their working years into retirement and beyond, there is a broad spectrum of issues and decisions that come into focus. At this juncture, our loved ones may be questioning if they have sufficiently prepared for this next phase of life.

Current research from the Center of Aging at Boston College tells us that over 48% of retirees feel that they have a less than satisfying retirement. Seize any opportunity to begin a meaningful dialogue about legal and financial planning with your senior loved ones.

Begin by organizing.

  • Identify all income sources (social security benefits, pension funds, rental income, investments, trusts and annuities)
  • Compile a listing of debt (mortgage, credit cards, automobile loans)
  • Estimate monthly and annual living expenses and obligations
  • Draft a listing of all assets

This list provides a viable base for developing a workable plan for the next phase of life. This jumping off place will go a long way in identifying strengths and pinpointing areas that need attention.

Be certain that the following information and documentation is also available and easily accessible:

  • Marriage  and/or divorce papers
  • Birth and death certificates
  • Military records
  • Social Security cards
  • Copy of driver’s license or legal photo ID
  • Passports
  • Online usernames and passwords
  • Location of safe deposit boxes and keys

Seek legal assistance

Asset protection is an integral part of retirement and long-range planning. An elder law attorney is a valuable resource for navigating the complexities of financial protection, long-term care options, gifting and estate planning. In addition, they are well connected to local professions and organizations that serve the elderly. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys will help you find a certified lawyer in your area.

Make a list of questions and concerns prior to meeting with an attorney or financial advisor, and bring any documents or information you feel might be helpful. Such items may include:

  • Bank account information, including any brokerage accounts
  • Pension documents,and 401(k) information
  • Copies of recent tax returns
  • Property deeds and vehicle titles
  • Listing of any current loans, debts, and credit card balances

What to expect

A well thought retirement plan will encompass aging, illness, and capacity issues as well as financial requirements and requests.

Be prepared to provide:

  • Authorization to release health-care information
  • Personal medical history
  • Copies of health insurance cards
  • Life insurance policies

Be prepared to discuss:

  • Financial and medical powers of attorney
  • Wills, living wills, and trusts
  • Housing choices and financing
  • Gifting, and estate taxes
  • Financing long-term care
  • Spousal protection
  • Family dynamics
  • End-of-life instructions and organ donation

Avoid the pitfalls of inadequate planning. A well thought out plan will outline how the estate will satisfy current and future needs, what happens to the estate after death, and how the estate will be managed in the event of illness or mental incapacity. Legal counsel, although costly, is vital. Consider the expense money well spent.

Have frequent conversations with aging loved ones about finances and planning for the future. Each opportunity to connect on a personal level affords both parties balance and perspective. Be proactive. Take care of business while you have options, and do not wait until the situation becomes critical.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”– Mark Twain

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