This article features estate planning tips for seniors. It covers topics such as:1. How to get basic estate planning documents if you are living on a fixed income and cannot afford an expensive attorney.2. Issues to consider if you are going to pay funeral and burial expenses in advance.3. The benefits of planning for assisted living and long term care needs before the need for such services arises.
Estate Planning for Seniors on Fixed Income
Many seniors living on fixed incomes believe they cannot afford to make an estate plan. Hiring a lawyer can be expensive, so executing estate planning documents often seems like a luxury seniors cannot afford. However, there are many free and reduced-fee services available to individuals with low-incomes.
Many communities have legal aid offices staffed with attorneys that provide free legal services to eligible seniors. Legal aid staff can help seniors execute basic estate planning forms such as a will, durable power of attorney, living will, appointment of health care agent, and transfer on death deed to heirs.Legal aid attorneys may also assist seniors with elder law issues such as conservatorship, guardianship, Medicaid benefits, and Veteranís issues.
If you are a senior living on a fixed income and want to get your estate in order, have questions about the probate process, or need help with other types of legal issues, research the legal aid options in your area. In addition to legal aid, there are a number of other free and low-cost legal services available to qualifying seniors. For more information on legal aid, pro bono projects, senior law clinics, and modest means referral programs, visit our Legal Aid page.
Prepaying for Funeral Arrangements
Many seniors are approached by sales people promoting the advantages of funeral insurance, funeral trusts, and prepaying for funeral, burial or cremation services. Unfortunately, some of these programs may not be in your best interest. Before signing a contract or writing a check to one of these companies, learn about your rights as a consumer. Visit our page on funeral prepaying for more information.
Benefits of Advance Planning for Senior Living
The only way to ensure you have a secure future in your golden years is to do the proper planning in advance. Nevertheless, it is human nature to avoid planning for a time when you will need assistance with daily living or even long term care. Most of us have the it will never happen to me attitude. For people who are independent and always made it on their own, accepting the need for help is simply against their nature.Unfortunately, this type of stubbornness and failure to plan usually results in seniors facing a host of serious problems when they do begin to experience the reality of advanced age. These problems can include:
1. Living in a home too large to maintain;
2. Having to rely on children and neighbors for help with home repairs and transportation:
3. Being burdened with an overwhelming amount of personal possessions;
4. Living too far from a hospital, doctor or other health care providers; and
5. Being unable to afford nursing home care.
There are two approaches to planning for life as a senior. The first is to plan in advance by making the necessary arrangements and taking the recommended steps to set yourself up for independent living during your senior years. The second approach is to wait until your health declines or you suffer an injury. If you take the second approach, when you do need to downsize to move to assisted living or need to have long term care, you may find your failure to plan prevents you getting the help you need.Even if you have children living nearby that are willing to help, it can be a tremendous strain on your relationship to repeatedly ask for help. Adult children and other relatives often try to act as caregivers, only to find they cannot physically lift a disabled family member or meet the other physical demands of being a senior caregiver. If you do not have family or friends to rely on, your situation can become desperate, depending on the type of illness or injury you suffer.
There are many steps you can take to plan for the obstacles you will undoubtedly face as you age. Begin by consulting a financial planner about the estimated costs of long term care and unforeseen medical expenses. If you may be forced to rely on Medicaid, learn about Medicaid eligibility requirements and Medicaid Planning. Evaluate your current housing situation and consider whether you could easily perform the maintenance on your current home if your health declines. Decide whether you need to downsize in terms of your personal property or your lifestyle. Think about your current proximity to medical facilities and health care providers, as well as family members you may rely upon for help at home or transportation.
Pennyborn.com features many free resources for seniors and caregivers. To get an overview of the issues, see estate planning.
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