Start 2023 Prepared: Reassess What Matters Most

If we have learned anything these past few years, it’s that life is fleeting. Amid such uncertain times, many of us have realized what – and who – truly means the most to us.

Estate planning allows you to reflect on your family, your priorities, and what actions you can take now to secure your future and that of your loved ones.

With proper estate planning, you can find the thoughtful support you need to make choices that best suit your specific situation. Be prepared for this new year.

Start by asking yourself these three critical questions …

1. What Life Changes Have I Experienced Over The Last Few Years?

Significant life changes are a good reason to assess if prior estate planning documents you have in place need to be updated.

Alternatively, if you have recently come into assets or inheritance and never had an estate plan, now is the time to put one in place. Consider the following examples.

  • Seeing the final paperwork may have brought a sense of relief if you have gone through a divorce. But what if you have advance directives or a will that put your ex-spouse in charge of your affairs? Even when the appointment of an agent or beneficiary may be terminated by a divorce, you may have a situation where the ex-spouse could still raise issues or where no new agent has been appointed.

    Your documents should be updated, whether a will, health care proxy, power of attorney, or other directives.
     

  • Suppose one of your parents has recently passed away. You may now be the owner of new property or be in receipt of insurance proceeds, savings, or other funds. If something happens to you, what would you like to happen to these assets?

    If you do not have a will or trust in place, it is wise to consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure your wishes are implemented, instead of leaving the decision up to your state’s default rules. 

Many more life changes warrant evaluating whether an estate plan is right for you. Second marriages, the birth of a new child, or simply a change of heart as to who and what matters the most are all valid reasons to take a closer look at your current plan (or lack of a plan).

2. Has a Spouse Recently Passed Away?

The death of a loved one or spouse is one of life’s hardest moments. Although reflecting on their passing is very difficult, not doing so may adversely affect any inheritance you wish to leave to loved ones. If you and your spouse owned your assets jointly, this is a good time to consider establishing a trust and/or updating beneficiary designations, so that at your death, your assets do not require probate.  If you and your spouse already had a trust, this is a time to consider whether any changes can or should be made. If you had significant assets, you will also want to determine whether there are estate tax decisions that should be made. 

 

3. What Happens If I Become Incapacitated?

Another important matter to reflect on is what happens if you cannot make decisions for yourself. Instead of leaving your loved ones with the inability to act or an expensive court process to get the authority to act, you can execute a few simple documents now.

These documents are generically referred to as “advance directives”, but the terminology varies from state to state. They typically encompass three areas: power to act on your behalf to make medical decisions, power to act on your behalf to manage your personal affairs, and access to information. In Michigan, you will want to have a Power of Attorney, appointing an agent to handle financial and legal matters on your behalf, as well as a Patient Advocate Designation, appointing an agent to handle medical decisions for you, if you cannot do so.

Many people with adult children are nearing a point in their life where they may need someone to look out for them. Having effective documents in place can make it less likely you are taken advantage of by others when you are in a vulnerable state. It also makes it more likely that those who know you best can communicate your wishes and manage your care, should the need arise.

  • A power of attorney can give a trusted child power to help you manage your bills, help you apply for Medicaid, help you downsize your home, and much more.
  • A Patient Advocate Designation can tell doctors and hospitals who you want to make medical decisions for you.
  • A HIPPA authorization can allow your children to remain equally informed about your health and ask medical doctors questions about your situation.
  • Finally, you can explain in your Patient Advocate Designation what you would like to happen if a recovery is not possible.

A good way to look at the estate planning options discussed here is that they allow you to take control of the future and, once these decisions are made, put these worries behind you. The start of the year 2023 is a great time to sit down with your financial and legal advisors to make sure your estate planning documents are in good order. You may contact the office of Wenzel Bennett & Harris, PC at 989-356-6128 to schedule an estate planning consultation.

According to a recent national study, nearly a quarter of Americans aged 50 and older say they – or a loved one – needed long-term care in 2022. The findings further suggest that seniors and their caregivers could benefit from more consumer-friendly information and guidance about long-term care services, a need researchers say will grow exponentially in the future.

Finding Long-Term Care Causes Wide-Ranging Emotions

Results showed that people looking for long-term care experienced a range of emotional responses in searching for a provider:

  • 53 percent of respondents reported feeling anxious about the process 

  • 52 percent described feeling frustration

  • 23 percent said they were confident during the process of long-term care for themselves or their loved one

  • 23 percent of respondents felt “at peace” about the choice they made for long-term care

  • Only 14 percent of respondents reported feeling happy

Respondents Want to Feel Prepared When Deciding on Long-Term Care

Researchers found that respondents want advice for seeking long-term care when it comes to the following:

  • 92 percent wanted to know what types of long-term care services are available
  • 90 percent wanted more information about paying for long-term care
  • 90 percent said advice and support on long-term care would have been helpful to them
  • 88 percent needed help understanding whether their personal or health care needs require long-term care
  • 88 percent of those surveyed also said they needed help choosing a long-term care provider
  • 86 percent said having someone to listen to them when seeking long-term care services would have been important to them
  • 84 percent of respondents wanted help deciding whether to pursue in-home care or community-based services (i.e., nursing home care)

Paying for Long-Term Care

A large number of respondents reported needing more information about how to pay for long-term care.

Of the people who were surveyed, 63 percent said it was extremely important to have additional details about the various types of care options available. Meanwhile, 69 percent said it was extremely important to have further details about the cost of care and their payment options.

To learn more about long-term care services and options, it is often helpful to work with an elder law attorney in the community who can help you assess the benefits and services available to you and create a plan for how to pay for long-term care. At Wenzel Bennett & Harris, P.C., we offer a consultation called a “Long-Term Care Consultation” in which we meet with clients to help create a plan for long-term care. If the client has a need for care in a nursing home or skilled care at home, we will work with the client and their family to explain how the Medicaid program works , review the clients’ assets and income, and assist the client in obtaining Medicaid benefits, where applicable. Many families are surprised to learn that they may qualify for benefits they weren’t aware were available to them. In addition, we help clients to make sure they have a good plan in place should it become necessary for them to have long-term care in the future. This often includes having Powers of Attorney for both financial and health care needs, so that appropriate agents are granted the authority and have the information needed to obtain benefits in the future, should that become necessary. If you or a family member would like to schedule a Long-Term Care Planning Consult, please contact our office at 989-356-6128.

If you have specific questions about your situation or would like to learn more, reach out to the team at WBH here.

Read more articles:

The 6 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes

If you’re like most people, you have the best of intentions regarding how you want your estate distributed when you die or your affairs handled should you become incapacitated. Unfortunately, without proper planning, your best intentions may not be enough. Here are...

Using a Roth IRA as an Estate Planning Tool

A Roth IRA does not have to be used as just a retirement plan; it can also be a way to transfer assets tax-free to the next generation. Unlike a traditional IRA, contributions to a Roth IRA are taxed, which means that the distributions are tax-free. Also, unlike a...

Social Security Recipients to Get Another Increase in 2023

The Social Security Administration has announced that its beneficiaries will see a significant increase – totaling nearly 9 percent – in their monthly Social Security checks come January 2023. This cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is the largest boost to Social...

Court Case Illustrates the Danger of Using an Online Power of Attorney Form

A recent court case involving a power of attorney demonstrates the problem with using online estate planning forms instead of hiring an attorney who can make sure your documents are tailored to your needs. Mercedes Goosley owned a home in Pennsylvania. In 2013, she...

Preserving the Family Vacation Home for Generations to Come

Summer is winding down and if you are one of the lucky ones, you got to spend some time at a family vacation home. How do you make sure your children and grandchildren can enjoy that second home as much as you did? The question for owners of vacation homes in planning...

Why You May Need a Trust in Addition to a Power of Attorney

While everyone should have a durable power of attorney that appoints someone to act for them if they become incapacitated, in some circumstances, it is not enough. In these cases, a revocable trust can help.  A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone...

What Not to Include in Your Will

If you are considering preparing a will, this is a great first step in planning for the future. Clients often think that their will is the document that should include all their wishes and provide for the distribution of all their property and funds. That is not the...

Majority of Adult Children Cannot Support Boomer Parents, Surveys Find

A recent survey by the American Advisors Group (AAG) finds that 55 percent of adult children say they are not financially prepared to help their Baby Boomer parents cope with rising inflation and living expenses. “Americans want to see their parents age with grace and...

How Much Should a Trustee Be Compensated?

Serving as a trustee of a trust can be a huge responsibility, so trustees are entitled to compensation for their work. The amount of compensation depends on the type of trustee and the complexity of the trust.  Depending on the trust, a trustee’s duties can include...

When Can Someone Be Declared Legally Incompetent?

If a loved one is experiencing memory loss or suddenly making poor decisions, you may be in a situation where it becomes necessary to ask the probate court to appoint a guardian and/or a conservator for them. This is a complicated process, so we strongly encourage our...