While many people relegate the activity of estate planning to later years in life, succession planning is actually something every adult should consider. Estate planning simply refers to documenting how you want your assets handled should something happen to you, and ensuring you have certain legal documents in place can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
It's common for people to consider estate planning around the time they go through a major shift in life. Getting married, getting divorced, surviving a spouse or even making a major move can all remind people of the need to plan ahead or make changes to plans they already have. If you're considering a move into an assisted living community such as Hickory Villa in Omaha, Nebraska, it might also be a good idea to consider estate planning or review plans you already have.
Check out these five estate planning documents older adults may want to consider investing in.
This form goes by a variety of names, often depending on what state you're in. Nebraska residents complete a Nebraska Power of Attorney for Healthcare, and you can download a blank form from the Nebraska State Unit on Aging.
The purpose of a health care proxy form is to designate someone you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated and unable to do so yourself. The form also provides a chance for you to detail instructions for decisions in certain scenarios, such as whether you want life-sustaining measures and when.
Many experts note that this is one of the most important planning forms and encourage adults to complete one even if they don't complete anything else. Benefits of a health care power of attorney form include knowing your wishes have been communicated and taking some of the burden off a loved one who may otherwise have to guess about what you would want.
A will is a document that details how you want your assets distributed among your heirs. If you pass away without a will, estate laws in your state decide how items are distributed.
Wills in Nebraska can be holographic, which means handwritten. If a will is written entirely in your hand and signed and dated, it doesn't necessarily need to be signed by witnesses. Typed wills must be signed by you and two witnesses who saw you sign the document.
When multiple wills are presented, probation can get complex. Probation is the legal process by which estate debts are paid and remaining value is distributed among heirs. Multiple wills gives people a chance to challenge the way the estate is being handled. Because of this and the potentially complex nature of a person's estate, many people do seek professional legal assistance in drafting wills and recording them with the clerk of court.
You can draft a power of attorney document for a variety of decisions and functions — they're not limited to health care. One common type of POA form is related to financial decision-making and access. Older adults may want a power of attorney who is able to access bank accounts and manage bills, for example. This may come in handy if you end up in the hospital for a surgery or even want to travel for a bit without worrying about such issues.
Giving someone power of attorney control over financial matters is a big step, though, and you should always ensure you're choosing someone you trust. While the POA has a fiduciary obligation to act in your best interest, an untrustworthy or irresponsible person may not do so.
A trust is a legal vehicle that's designed to hold ownership of assets. You can transfer assets such as cash, investments and even your home into a trust for a variety of reasons. Common reasons for using trusts include reducing potential tax burdens and safeguarding assets for future generations.
Trusts are, perhaps, the most complex type of estate planning document on this list, so it's important to consult with an attorney first. An experienced estate planning lawyer can provide advice about whether a trust is right for your needs and what type of trust might work for you.
Beneficiary designation forms are easy to complete and allow certain assets, including life insurance and some bank accounts, to pass to your beneficiaries without going through probate. Ask about beneficiary forms for all accounts you hold, including checking, savings, investment, pension and retirement accounts. Select a beneficiary and a backup beneficiary, and review those designations every year or two to ensure you don't want to make any changes.
Estate planning isn't a scary activity, and once you complete it, you may feel greater peace of mind that lets you enjoy life more. Reach out to a lawyer today or at least ensure you have a health care proxy form on file with your providers.