February is Senior Independence Month
Thoughtful legal planning is a key aspect of aging gracefully. As you enter your senior years, it is important to create documents that allow you to maximize your independence and keep your legacy intact.
For most seniors, having plans in place for the healthcare, financial, and legal decisions is an essential part of maintaining their independence, but the task can often seem daunting. So, in honor of National Senior Independence Month, we’re highlighting four ways seniors can maximize their independence through legal planning:
1. Have A Family Meeting
One aspect of estate planning that can often be overlooked is the family meeting. Family meetings are important because they allow you to communicate your plans and wishes to your loved ones while you are still able to do so. Transparency about your estate plan can eliminate unwanted surprises, decrease or eliminate fighting between your beneficiaries, and explain your decisions and reasoning. A meeting can also be a great time to resolve any conflict between your family members and to set clear expectations about the distribution of your assets and any decisions you’ve made about end-of-life care. Ideally, you should hold this type of family meeting while you are in good health, and after your estate planning documents have already been signed.
A thoughtful and well-planned family meeting will give everyone to hear the same information at one time and give them the opportunity to ask questions. Ultimately, this gives your loved ones the chance to better understand your wishes and plans. You may wish to have a neutral third party, like your estate planning attorney, involved to avoid any potential conflicts. Your attorney can also provide insights and explanations about the documents in your plan.
2. Update Your Estate Plan
Creating an estate plan is important, but it isn’t effective without regular reviews and updates. Most experts recommend revisiting your estate plan every three to five years, or anytime you experience a major life change. Some of the reasons that you may want to update your estate plan include:
- Death of beneficiary or spouse
- Illness or disability
- Birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
- Purchase of large asset (e.g., house, land, rental property)
- Change in value of estate
- Change in relationship with beneficiary
- Relocating to another state
- Change in state and/or federal laws
- Increase or decrease in income
- Starting or selling a business
As your life changes, so should your estate plan. Having an outdated estate plan can end up costing you or your loved ones later down the road. Our attorneys at Michaelson Law are available to help you review your estate plan and ensure that it meets your needs.
3. Downsize Your Estate
Another way to maintain your independence as you age is to consider proactively downsizing.
Many of our clients decide to sell their larger family home and opt for something that’s smaller and easier to maintain. Doing this while you are still energetic and healthy can help to alleviate physical and financial burdens on you and your family.
You can also downsize your estate by gifting sentimental items or items of value. Doing this while you are alive can be beneficial for several reasons. First, you can find out which things are valuable to which people. Secondly, you’ll be able to see your loved ones enjoy your gifts and tell them about the significance of special items. Lastly, you’ll be around to curb any disagreements over particular items.
4. Check For Benefits
Seniors can often qualify for additional government benefits, but it can be complicated to understand.
If you are a veteran, a special benefit called Aid and Attendance can provide some money to cover costs for daily living assistance. In certain cases, Aid and Attendance benefits may be available, even if your income is above the eligibility limit.
Most people are aware of social security benefits, but figuring out how to fully maximize them can be complex and challenging. Benefits change every year and keeping up with the changes can be daunting. Our team of elder law attorneys can answer questions about qualifying for benefits.
Ensuring Your Independence
Planning and prioritizing legal decisions can help seniors to maintain their independence for years to come. Regular reviewing your estate plan and other legal documents can help to mitigate problems before they ever happen.
If you want to know more about steps you can take to maximize senior independence through careful legal planning, contact Michaelson Law at (702) 731-2333.