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5 Questions Retired Couples Should Ask Themselves To Avoid Estate Planning Complications

May 8, 2024 | Estate Planning

Whether you’re approaching retirement age, or you’re already there, it’s important to ensure that your financial affairs are in order. Many people put estate planning off, but in many cases it becomes too late to do anything about it – life happens fast, and no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Taking steps now to prepare for the unexpected can save time, money, and stress for you and your loved ones down the road.

You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you deserve to soak up your golden years without fear or worry over your assets and property. You likely don’t want to leave your children or grandchildren in financial jeopardy either, and estate planning is one way you can guarantee that won’t happen!

In this blog, we’ll discuss 5 questions we recommend retired couples ask themselves during the process of estate planning to avoid complications later on. Let’s dive in!

Question 1: What Are Your Goals And Objectives?

Despite the online templates and “Do-It-Yourself” documents that might suggest otherwise, estate planning is NOT a one-size-fits-all solution. Every individual, couple, and family is unique, so your estate plan should be tailored to your own circumstances. It’s crucial that you and your significant other take the time to ask yourselves what your goals and objectives are. Ask yourself what of yours requires protection and planning for. 

For example, do you have a family business you want to make sure runs smoothly if something happens to you? Do you have a blended family you want to treat fairly and equally when it comes to your inheritance? Do you have children who struggled with addiction or gambling, and you want to make sure they don’t waste the money you leave them? If it came to it, would you want to be on a ventilator, or would you want to pass peacefully and quickly?

You have to answer some tough questions in estate planning, but these answers are key to making your wishes known and honored! If you don’t, it’s more likely that family conflict or financial complications can arise later on. Working with an estate planning attorney can help simplify this process, as they can provide clarity on which estate planning tools will help you best accomplish your goals. In turn, this can provide you, your spouse, and your loved ones with peace of mind about the future. 

Question 2: Do You Have A Comprehensive Inventory Of Assets and Debts?

Having a clear understanding of your financial landscape is an essential aspect of estate planning. You and your spouse will need to take inventory of your assets, including real estate, investments, retirement accounts, bank accounts, vehicles, and valuable personal property. You’ll also want to account for any debts, like a home loan, credit card bills, and other outstanding bills. If you fail to take these into consideration, when you pass away, they’ll be taken out of your estate, resulting in less that will be left for your family.

Having a compressive view of your assets (and debts) can help you determine your net worth, but also ensure that your estate plan accurately reflects your financial circumstances. 

Question 3: How Will You Address Healthcare And Long-Term Care Needs?

One aspect of estate planning many people underestimate is planning for healthcare and long-term needs. In Pennsylvania, the average cost of living in a PA assisted living facility is over $43,000 a year, and nursing home care is more than double that. Medicare and insurance won’t cover these costs, but Medicaid (a government-run financial aid program) can. However, the eligibility guidelines are strict, and often many people are disqualified for having “too much” money, even though they still don’t have the kind of funds to cover $43,000 a year in nursing home expenses.

Medicaid planning is a legal method for shielding your assets from the costs of long-term care so your assets don’t count against you. A Medicaid planning attorney can help you convert your assets using trusts and other tools so you can qualify for coverage. That being said, it’s something that must be done years in advance – not right before you need to enter a nursing home – as there is a “look back” period that can affect your eligibility.

Question 4: Which Of Your Family Members Will Get What When You Die?

It’s not easy to think about the idea of passing away, but the truth is, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and we never know when our time will be up. It’s important to consider what will come of the assets and property you own. Naming beneficiaries or heirs for your money and belongings is a pivotal part of creating a thorough estate plan, so you need to consider who you want to list. Who you list is entirely up to you (and your partner). You can include children, grandchildren, friends, or other relatives. You also aren’t limited to choosing people, and can actually name a charity as a beneficiary if there is a non-profit that you’re passionate about. Additionally, many people choose to name a trust as a beneficiary, which is usually helpful if you have minor children or are the caretaker of someone with a disability.

Question 5: Are You Aware That You May Need To Update Your Estate Plan Regularly?

Once you create your estate plan, you can’t just move on and forget about it, unless no circumstances in your life are ever going to change – and that’s not likely! Regularly checking on your estate plan to ensure that it still accurately reflects your financial circumstances, preferences for asset distribution, and healthcare wishes, is essential so that you don’t end up in a bind down the road. 

Be sure to ask yourself, and your spouse, if you’re prepared to make changes when necessary, including when:

  • You get married or divorced
  • You change your name
  • There is a birth or adoption of grandchildren
  • There is a death of a spouse, beneficiary, or executor
  • There are significant changes in assets or debts
  • You purchased a home
  • You relocated to another state

How Daly Law Offices Can Help

We understand that it’s difficult to plan for the future, but it’s an important step in protecting everything you’ve spent your life working for. At Daly Law Offices, we will help you draft a comprehensive estate plan that ensures you leave a lasting legacy behind. Our estate planning attorney, Joshua N. Daly, has been helping clients plan for the future for over 15+ years. He belongs to the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), Pennsylvania Association of Elder Law Attorneys (PAELLA), and Estate Planning Council of the Lehigh Valley. You can trust that he will put his skills and experience to work on your behalf. Call today to schedule a free consultation and discover your next steps.

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