Retirement-and-estate-planning, preparation for good results

Both retirement-and-estate-planning are interrelated parts of preparation for your retirement lifestyle. Your retirement plan will not be complete without some serious consideration of estate planning issues.

The retirement-and-estate-planning process is serious business, very complicated and subject to changing laws. Be sure to seek professional services from a qualified attorney and financial consultant. Using the services of a qualified consultant has the added benefit of having someone else do the work, since most of us aren’t qualified and really don’t want to spend retirement time preparing a plan.

Retirement planning provides a road map of our life in retirement including decisions on where to live and how to fund it. It also causes us to answer questions on income, healthcare, housing, activities, travel, etc.

Estate planning on the other hand prepares us for the orderly handling, disposition, and administration of our estate when we can no longer do it ourselves. I believe that we have an obligation to our surviving spouse and/or children to provide that preparation. The absence of an estate plan can have a devastating effect on an estate and remaining family members. However, every year, the vast majority of Americans who die do so without having prepared a valid estate plan.

Estate planning could include all or part of the following:

  • The will is a legal document declaring a person’s wishes regarding the disposal and distribution of his or her estate after death. If there is no will, the state will decide the disposition of assets based on a formula. A judge will name an executor. Probate laws and regulations vary from state to state. Be sure to retain a competent attorney who is familiar with the laws of your state to draft your will. A well written will is a fundamental element of retirement-and-estate-planning.
  • The Revocable Living Trust (RLT) is set up during your lifetime and you transfer most if not all of your assets into the trust. You control and manage the assets that you placed in the trust. The RLT contains language to distribute assets at death and from that standpoint is much like a will. An RLT allows you to avoid probate and it is not subject to public record. It is also much harder to contest successfully. They are, however, much more expensive to set up than a will and are difficult to maintain. The professional services of a qualified attorney are essential to set up and maintain the RLT. This arrangement is not for everyone. Check it out with legal counsel before deciding if it is for you.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney empowers the person that you select to make health care decisions for you, should you be unable to make them on your own. The person you appoint is referred to as an "Attorney-in-Fact" or "Agent."
  • Advance Directives are instructions given by a person that specifies what actions should be taken for their health in the event that they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity. It also appoints a person to make such decisions on their behalf. Also known as a living will, the directive is a legal document that conveys your wishes about end of life decisions ahead of time.

Each individual’s retirement-and-estate-planning will be unique to that person. At the very minimum, all of us should provide our family with a will and advance directives. For more information on estate planning go to the NIA web site "getting your affairs in order."

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In the end it's not the years in your life that count but the life in your years. Abraham  Lincoln