Many baby boomers who are hitting their senior years are divorced, widowed or have remained single their whole lives. A number of them never had children. If you have no heirs, is there any reason to have an estate plan?
California seniors move into assisted living communities for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they just want to be free of responsibilities like home maintenance, cooking and cleaning. Many newly widowed people feel isolated and want the socialization that these communities provide. Some people need a little help with activities of daily life (ADL) like bathing and dressing as they get older.
Sometimes, when developing an estate plan, people choose to place conditions on the money inherited through wills or trusts. The beneficiary must meet what's called a "condition precedent." For example, you may make your grandchild a beneficiary of a trust, but only after they've graduated from college or if they use the money to start a business.
Many people see their estate plan as a means not just to leave money to their grandchildren and others in younger and future generations, but specifically to help them (and their parents) pay for the best possible education they can get. Setting up a trust is a popular way to do that. There's more than one way to set aside money for future educational needs. It's important to choose the one that best meets your family's needs and is fair to everyone.
Many people take advantage of having their families together over the holidays to discuss their estate plans. Maybe you're in the early stages of thinking about your plan. Perhaps you have one in place and just want to check in with everyone to see if there are things that you need to revise.
If you're one of those people whose bank statements and bills show up in your email inbox instead of your mailbox and you can't remember the last time you bought postage stamps, congratulations on minimizing your carbon footprint. However, if most (or any) of your financial and tax information is online, you need to include your digital life in your estate plan.
An advance health care directive is one of the most crucial elements in your estate plan. Even if you don't have a full estate plan in place, by having this document, you can let your medical providers know about your wishes regarding what measures you want taken (or not taken) to keep you alive if you suffer a serious injury or illness and are unable to speak for yourself.
People have all sorts of reasons for postponing their estate planning. Unfortunately, too many people postpone it for so long that they die without any estate plan in place — even a simple will. They don't intend to, but they leave their family members with the stressful, time-consuming and often expensive task of dealing with their assets and debts in probate court.
As we discussed in a recent post, Aretha Franklin, despite her considerable wealth, age and poor health, died without an estate plan in place. It might be surprising, then, to learn that when 26-year-old rapper Mac Miller died earlier this month, he had an estate plan. In fact, it was reportedly similar to the one Michael Jackson had when he died in 2009.
No one wants their family to fight over their assets after they're gone. However, even when there's an estate plan in place, family members and other beneficiaries (or people who believe they were left out) may try to dispute the will and other documents in court.