When most of us think about retirement, we have visions of days spent relaxing, doing some traveling, getting around to those hobbies we never had time for when we were busy working and raising a family. Unfortunately, estate planning attorneys know that what are supposed to be considered the “golden years” are often filled with stress, health issues, and financial problems. In fact, the latter two are often related when you consider how unexpected illness can quickly drain your bank accounts.
Obviously, we can’t accurately predict our future other than perhaps the possibility of developing certain conditions based on your own genetic history. You may be one of the lucky ones who manage to have everything they need, including good health. Rather than leaving it up to chance, however, one of the the best ways to get the most out of your retirement years is to be prepared and plan ahead.
Having a solid financial plan for your retirement is ideal, of course. However, that is not the only planning that you should focus on. In fact, a solid financial retirement plan will incorporate good estate planning. The reason is that estate planning can help you preserve assets from many of the drains and dangers of aging, including all those that do not end with your death. From that perspective, proactive estate plan is an essential component to smart retirement planning.
While some people are under the impression that things like planning an estate or creating a trust are for those with a lot of money and property, this is completely untrue. An estate planning attorney can assist you with creating basic but essential documents, including healthcare directives and a power of attorney which everyone, regardless of financial status, should have. Beyond these important documents, they can also review your plans for financing your retirement and make sure your assets stay protected no matter what happens using living trusts.
Another misconception about estate planning is that it’s all about preparing for what happens after you die when, in fact, it’s also about making plans for how you’re going to live. As difficult as it is to think about, you need to have a plan in place in case you become incapacitated in any way, whether it’s physically or mentally. This should include information about who you want making medical decisions on your behalf, what kind of care you want to have, and how the expenses for your care will be covered. You also need to make sure that you have a designated person or people who can have immediate access to your medical and financial records.
Without basic estate planning documents, decisions about your finances, healthcare, and your future could end up in the hands of the court. Your loved ones will have very little control when it comes to making sure your wishes are being carried out. Instead, it will all be left up to a judge who wouldn’t have the first clue about what you might want. Plus, the process of going through the court system in this way can be a lengthy and expensive journey.
Lastly, good estate planning can help you potentially qualify for government benefits such as Medi-Cal or VA Improved Pension (such as “Aid and Attendance”) if you are an eligible wartime veteran or surviving spouse of a wartime veteran. These are critical benefits, especially if you do not have a long-term care insurance policy, that could help you pay for the costs of long-term care without having to use up all of your other financial resources. However, you should not wait until a need arises for these benefits because then it might be too late or your options would be extremely limited. They key is to be proactive with your planning so you have the most options available to you so that if your health fails you can age with dignity and afford the care you need and deserve.
The good news is that putting together necessary estate planning documents with the help of an attorney can give you and your loved ones the peace of mind you deserve. Being prepared for the possibility that you may end up needing more medical care than you expected can ease some of the worry that hangs over us as we get older. Knowing that you’ve got your proverbial ducks in a row will give you the chance to relax and enjoy your golden years. If you need help getting started, simply call our Irvine law firm at (949) 333-3702 to schedule an appointment.
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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an Orange County estate planning attorney and elder law attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He’s all about family and passionate about estate planning, elder law, and veterans. He founded Snyder Law to help families from Orange County, Los Angeles County, and Southern California plan to protect what matters most: their loved ones, their dignity, and their legacy.