As we get older, our focus changes from acquiring to retaining our quality of life and assets. There are many things to consider and understand when you decide the time is right to get your estate in order, and it is always better to start planning earlier than later.
There are a few basic items that need to be addressed as soon as possible. These have no real bearing on your age, but are ways to protect your assets should something unexpected happen to you. Preparing a valid will, health care proxy and power of attorney are the first steps in protecting what you have worked so hard for.
A will is a legal document that directs allocation of your assets at your death. Having a valid, legal will helps prevent a possibly expensive, and protracted battle over where your assets end up. In the will you name an executor, someone who you can trust to follow through on your wishes. Without a valid will in place, your estate is “intestate” and the state of Massachusetts will decide where your assets go.
Health Care Proxy
Should you become incapacitated through injury or illness, the health care proxy and power of attorney are crucial to you and your estate’s well-being. The health care proxy is something you have probably heard about. Today, whenever you check into a hospital for a procedure one of the basic questions they ask you is if you have a proxy in place. They want to know where they need to turn when a health decision needs to be made. Again, you don’t want an institution left to determine what is best for you.
Power of Attorney
The power of attorney gives a person you choose the authority to act on your financial matters. This person will basically take over management of your financial life. This is why it’s important to get this arranged as soon as possible. Without a power of attorney in place, no one can touch your assets to help manage them in your stead.
Finally, you need to arrange protection for your assets so that you will not be in danger of losing them during a protracted stay in a long-term care facility or nursing home. Massachusetts has some of the highest nursing home costs in the country, averaging around $150,000 per year.
Elder law and long-term care planning is a very complex matter to deal with, in part, because we need to address the MassHealth implications and Medicaid rules. Without a valid, legal plan in place assets can be quickly lost. If you would like us to review your estate plan and long-term care plan, please call our office to schedule an appointment.