“Live long and prosper” – is something we all aspire to during our lifetimes. However, living longer brings with it issues that most of us do not want to think about, but issues that are likely to happen whether we want them to or not. The “Baby boomers,” those born between 1946 and 1964, are seeing many of these issues develop with the aging of their own parents.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 10,000 people in the U.S. are turning 65 years of age on a daily basis. The Census Bureau estimates that by the time the last of the “boomers” reaches 65, somewhere around 2029, those over 65 years of age will equal nearly 60 million people. That is 20% of the total U.S. population. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that, according to current data, almost 70% of those individuals will require long term care, and many of them will be suffering some sort of cognitive dementia. Currently more than 40% of assisted living folks have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. These numbers are going to become reality for many of us sooner that we expect.
The importance of basic planning for this future applies to us all. When most people think of “Estate Planning,” they think of families like the Rockefellers, Morgans and Vanderbilts, as well as the Carnegies and the Mellons of the world. The truth is, as many of us are experiencing with our own parents, estate planning is necessary for anyone who has a bank account, life insurance, 401(k) or IRA, or even a modest home or car. These are all assets that need legal attention when one is either incapacitated (unable to make rational decisions) or when someone passes. To avoid legal complications, one needs to designate someone now who can handle these issues.
Legal tools, such as a Durable Power of Attorney, allow one to designate now who can be of help later when one needs it the most. However, you cannot wait until you are injured or incapacitated to a point where that designation can no longer be made – it will then be too late!
Similarly, with age-related mental and physical health issues looming, one needs to appoint someone now who can make important health care related decisions by the use of Health Care Directives, Living Wills and Health Care Proxies. Doctors and hospitals want families to have these types of documents so they are not left to struggle and quarrel among themselves as to “what you wanted” in case of a medical emergency.
Lastly, although no one wants to think about dying, it is inevitable that it will happen to each and every one of us. So far, no one leaves this world alive. Basic wills and marital trusts protect your assets and direct where and to whom you wish them to pass once you “pass on.” Again, these are things that need to be addressed now. Once you have done so, you can always revise, change and modify these documents later as your life and the lives of those affected by your planning go through different transitions.
It really is time to stop putting off these important matters, as they seem to fall in place with other things that we delay, such as cleaning the garage and the basement – all of which we promise ourselves to address “one day.” Life and its unexpected events happen to us all, including aging, accidents, serious illness, divorce, wayward children and grandchildren. As someone once famously said, “failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Don’t fail your spouse, significant other, children or family members by failing to plan for these events now.
At Libby O’Brien Kingsley & Champion, LLC, we help individuals and families – wealthy or not – to prepare for the future, most of the time on a very modest flat fee basis so you can plan and know in advance what the cost to protect your family will be. Contact one of our Trust and Estates Attorneys to set up an appointment to plan for your and your family’s future today.