Planning for Those You Are Responsible For

A client came in to see us for their follow-up consultation.  The client shared that, in between their two meetings with us, the husband‘s brother had suffered a stroke and was now in a rehabilitation facility.  He was a bachelor.  He had no power of attorney or health care proxy.  He may or may not have had a will — they didn’t know.  Further, they were unable to get access to his apartment to clean out the fridge and get his clothes because he had failed to put them on the list of persons approved to enter in the event of an emergency.

One of the most overlooked areas in estate planning is the question of who you are responsible for.  Do you have a friend or relative who you know will need to rely on you if something happens?  Either they have no one else or everyone else is too far away.  If you have the responsibility, then make sure that you have the documents you will need to carry out that responsibility.  Otherwise, the challenges become of a magnitude greater.

Similarly, so many of our clients have adult children with young families.  Do you know whether your children have wills, powers of attorney and health care proxies?

There are serious pitfalls for young families if one spouse dies without a plan.  Roughly half of their assets go to their surviving spouse and half to the children.  The court will appoint a legal guardian for the children’s money and the unused portion must be turned over to them at age eighteen, ready or not!

A potentially more serious problem for older adults is whether their sons and daughters who have families possess adequate life insurance.  If your son or daughter dies without sufficient life insurance, you may be called upon to support and educate your grandchildren out of your retirement money.

Finally, if you are responsible for the care of an elderly parent, then make sure it is you who has the power of attorney and health care proxy and not another sibling who may end up controlling the situation from afar, much to your dismay.

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