While estate planning is important for all adults, seniors are more vulnerable to injuries and illnesses that leave them unable to take care of themselves and communicate their needs. Protecting a senior parent’s assets, wealth, and future is critical for a smooth transition into their new stage of life.
A 2021 Gallup News poll reports that only 46% of all adults in the U.S. have wills, and an even smaller percentage of adults have assigned a healthcare power of attorney to make health-related decisions on their behalf. It can be stressful to discuss estate planning with a senior parent, but having a detailed plan in case of an accident will provide peace of mind and allow you to understand their wishes and prevent family conflict.
4 Reasons Why a Senior Parent Needs an Estate Plan
One of the most common reasons people push off estate planning is because they are unsure of what it entails, which can be very overwhelming. Many believe estate planning is only for the wealthy or those with large investments. However, everyone should have a basic estate plan to protect their wishes and estate, including a home, bank accounts, investments, personal belongings and/or vehicles, etc.
When discussing preparing for the future with your senior parent, consider the following four reasons why they need an estate plan:
Protects Wealth and Property
Nobody likes to feel like they are losing their independence or control over their assets. After years of making their own financial decisions, senior parents may hesitate to allow someone else control over their property and wealth. It is vital to consider the importance of authorizing an Agent under a power of attorney—someone who makes important legal and financial decisions on their behalf if they cannot do so themselves. By appointing someone and detailing their ability, senior parents can ensure their wealth and finances are taken care of in the event of an emergency. It is important that your senior parent decides who they choose as their Agent while they are thinking clearly as opposed to allowing a Court to decide if there is an illness or impairment down the road.
Follows Health Related Wishes
Just like how a financial power of attorney protects an individual’s wealth and property, a health care proxy, designates a representative or agent who makes health care decisions when they cannot communicate themselves. These individuals will follow the guidelines in a senior parent’s estate plan, ensuring their treatment preferences are respected.
A beneficiary is a legally designated individual who receives benefits from another person’s financial products when that person passes away. Senior parents may have children or grandchildren to whom they wish to leave property, wealth, or other assets after they pass. When a person designates beneficiaries in their Will and trusts, they ensure their loved ones will be cared for after the individual passes.
Finalize a Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament provides information about how a person wants their assets distributed and any specifics they require. For example, a senior parent may wish to donate a portion of their wealth to a charity. A senior parent’s specific wishes can be detailed and protected with a properly drafted Last Will and Testament. A senior parent will also designate the individual(s) they trust to oversee the distribution of their estate, the Executor(s) or their will. This prevents potential arguments within the family about a senior parent’s inventions and wishes.
Framing the estate planning discussion around a senior parent’s age and assets may backfire and lead to heavy pushback. Instead, talk about how an estate plan empowers a senior to choose the individual(s) to assist them should they need and ultimately protect their wishes, intentions, and wealth they worked so hard to develop.
Learn More About Estate Planning With Attorney Cheryl L. Fratello
Estate planning is more than just distributing assets and property after an individual passes. Ensuring your senior parent’s financial and medical decisions are understood and respected will protect their future and relieve a significant amount of stress. Our Fratello Law elder law and estate planning attorneys have over 120 years of combined experience protecting and guiding New York residents through their estate planning legal needs. By offering compassionate and responsive legal advice, our clients feel comfortable communicating their questions and concerns to our team.