Health care advancements over the past few decades have increased longevity, but also the need for having a detailed aging plan.
Developing an Aging Plan should be a conversation with family members and a set of trusted professionals to ensure the wishes and needs of an individual or couple are accounted for well before an event occurs. Having an aging plan in place reduces potential stresses, provides clarity to family members or agents and a sense of peace that key stakeholders are on the same page.
First and foremost, an aging plan centers on the discussion of an individual’s or couples’ wishes for what they want their future to look like under a couple of scenarios. If an individual’s health does not go according to plan, who steps in? What are the wishes of the individual for housing, lifestyle and healthcare? How will expenses be taken care of?
An aging plan encompasses general estate planning in addition to a plan for what living arrangements and wishes should be accounted for. You or your loved one likely has the documents related to an estate plan ready to go. Your general estate plan likely includes:
An important note: Healthcare Directives and Powers of Attorney for Healthcare documents should be on file with the individual’s primary care physician and hospital as well as with the agent named in the Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
While proper estate planning is crucial and should be reviewed every few years with a qualified legal professional, an aging plan encompasses more than just the legal documents. Having your estate documents set up properly is a vital piece, but an aging plan should really focus on what you want life to look like in your later years, not just the financial and legal aspects. Having the discussion of your wishes, your preferences and what matters most provides clarity and confidence to all parties involved.
In addition to having estate documents in order, an aging should also include lists of:
Professional contacts’ information, such as:
In previous newsletters we discussed various powers of attorney. Most individuals are familiar with the various types, but I will quickly summarize the general types of powers of attorney. A power of attorney gives an individual or individuals the power to act on your behalf as your agent. We most commonly see powers of attorney for healthcare and for property. You, along with your attorney, are able to structure the powers granted to your agents according to your wishes. The power can be limited to a particular circumstance or activity, it can be temporary or permanent, and can be structured to take effect immediately, or it can spring into action if an event occurs in the future, such as an event that results in a mental incapacity.
Given the broad nature of these powers and the implications for how it can affect you, it is essential to have the proper individuals holding these positions, and have a thorough discussion with your legal professional about your assets, your wishes and any concerns you may have. Having successor agents is also an important aspect in case your named agent is no longer able to take on the responsibility down the line. Spouses and children are commonly selected for these roles. These positions can become substantial responsibilities. Part of the aging plan discussion focuses on conducting these conversations to ensure your loved ones and future agents understand the responsibility, your wishes, and are willing to take on the job. There are no qualifications for your agent other than they cannot be a minor or incapacitated. For powers of attorney for property where financial decisions may need to be made it is important your future agent would be financially competent. However, the most important choice is someone you trust. Integrity is often the most important component.
When reviewing your estate plan, are the individuals you have listed as your agent for health care or property willing and able to take on this not-insignificant task? Do you feel confident they are financially or emotionally competent to take on the responsibility? Do they have the available time as well as the inclination to take on one or more of these roles?
Note: A power of attorney is recognized in all states, but rules or requirements can differ from state to state, so if you have moved since drafting your powers of attorney it is recommended to consult with a legal professional license.
The family discussion is crucial. Imagine you or your loved ones specific wishes regarding health decisions were not specified. Your loved ones will have to make those decisions for you without knowing if you would agree. The stress of being responsible for these decisions without knowing the individual’s wishes cannot be understated. Or if you expect to assist an aging loved one by starting this conversation with an older parent or family member you may be able to help them plan for the future and ensure you and your loved ones are on the same page.
Having aging plan discussions ahead of time can head off issues, and provide more of a dialogue so that you feel confident your wishes are known, and that you will not be overburdening family members or other loved ones.
In future newsletters we’ll continue the discussion around components of an aging plan including where to look for additional information and resources. As your wealth strategist team, we are here as a resource to discuss your aging plan or assist you to facilitate a discussion with your loved ones. Please contact your advisor for more information.
To summarize, you or your loved ones’ aging plan can be quite straightforward, or require significant coordination. The important thing is to get organized - whether that includes getting started, updating or amending documents, or having a candid conversation with yourself as well as your loved ones. Planning for the future helps everyone to be prepared for the future.