These days we’re living anywhere from 10 to 15 years longer on average now than we did in 1950. In fact, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analytics (IIASA) in Vienna has conducted studies that conclude that age 74 is the turning point between middle age and old age.
We eat better, exercise, and as a result, we aren’t afflicted as often with diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes. Even dementia is delayed. That means we aren’t just living longer. We are living better too. This means today’s 70-year-old is less dependent on others and retirement may not always necessary until much later. Or, if we still decide to retire at the average age of 62, the potential of living longer means setting aside extra funds for the retirement years. Living longer also could delay when you start passing down wealth to the next generation and how much.
An estate transferred by a 75-year-old will likely be larger than one passed down by someone who lives to the ripe old age of 100. This is especially true when you consider that healthcare expenses tend to rise for people in the later stages of life, including costs for long-term care facilities or in-home care.
That said, estate planning isn’t simply instructions for distributing your assets when you pass away. The truth is that a proper estate plan can do so much more. While a significant benefit of estate planning is providing for your family when you are gone, you can also reap many benefits while you are living.
Estate planning is more than leaving assets
Estate planning can prepare for the surprises of life. For example, proper estate planning includes planning for you and your care if you become incapacitated.
One tool used to address your care in the event of incapacity is a financial power of attorney. This legal document allows you to appoint someone to manage your finances and property on your behalf. A financial power of attorney can go into effect as soon as the document is signed, allowing someone to act on your behalf even if you are not incapacitated. Alternatively, you can also arrange that the power of attorney only goes into effect if a physician determines you can no longer make decisions for yourself. You can decide which type of financial power of attorney fits your unique situation.
Another estate planning tool that can protect you is a healthcare surrogate. The healthcare surrogate is a legal document lets you name a trusted person to make medical decisions on your behalf when you cannot do so yourself. It also enables you to lay out some of your wishes regarding your medical care, such as whether you want to be resituated or not. Similarly, a living will can also bring peace of mind to both you and your loved ones because it provides instructions on what type of end-of-life medical care you want.
Finally, using a revocable living trust can be beneficial if you become incapacitated. When you are healthy and have the capacity, you are typically the trustee of a revocable living trust and can manage them for your benefit. However, the trust instrument also allows you to name a successor trustee who will step into your shoes to manage the assets when you can no longer do so. But the successor trustees must continue to use the assets for your benefit.
Give yourself the gift of peace of mind
Having a properly drafted estate plan that includes the documents described above can help protect you during your lifetime. By not having these documents in place, your loved ones may be forced to go before the court to have someone appointed to make financial and medical decisions for you. This process, often called “living probate” is lengthy, expensive, and stressful. Guardianship proceedings aren’t always difficult, but when a relative contests the issue, it can put your family’s affairs on public display in the Florida probate court. It may also mean the someone whom you do not know or do not wish to have in charge is assigned as your guardian.
Living longer doesn’t mean putting off estate planning. It means getting your affairs in order to make the most of your long, wonderful life. Mortellaro Law, located in Tampa, Florida, has the experience and expertise you need. Call our estate planning lawyers at 813-367-1500 to learn more about estate planning in any phase of your life.