Prepare for Tomorrow's Realities Today

Physician's Money Digest, November30 2003, Volume 10, Issue 22

When it comes to getting older,many people refuse to makethe necessary preparations.For some, the reason is procrastination.For others, it is easier to avoid realityuntil it knocks on the door. Often, peoplesimply do not know what steps theyshould take. Let's look at a few thingsyou should do to prepare for old age:

• Get your estate in order. Use this asan opportunity to review your existingwill. Does it still reflect your wishes?Does it minimize potential estate taxes?If your total assets, including life insurance,exceed $1 million, you may be subjectto estate taxes.

In addition, are your assets titledproperly to take advantage of the provisionsin your will? Often, a will is properlydrawn but the titles to assets and beneficiarydesignations are inappropriate,making the will ineffective. Reviewingyour estate with your attorney will avoidthis mistake and ensure the proper distributionof your assets.

• Write a durable power of attorney.This document designates the personwho will act on your behalf when youare no longer able to do so. Make surethat you have it updated at least onceevery 5 years. Any attorney can do this,and it is inexpensive.

• Organize important documents.Gather, review, and organize importantpapers, such as your will, health and lifeinsurance policies, and birth certificate.For a free document organizer guide,send a self-addressed, stamped envelopeto Stewart H. Welch, Free documentorganizer guide, 3940 Montclair Road,5th Floor, Birmingham, AL 35213.

• Complete a living will. This document,which is also known as an AdvanceDirective for Health Care, outlines thelevel of care you desire should youbecome terminally ill and unable tomake decisions for yourself. It also designatesthe person in charge of makingcritical health care decisions. Give an executedcopy to your physician.

• Determine if you need long-termcare insurance. Long-term care insuranceis designed to help defray the cost oflong-term health care, such as nursinghome and in-home nursing care. Don'twait too long to determine if you needlong-term care insurance. One's assetscan be depleted in a short time by healthcare expenses.

• Identify organizations that providespecialized support for the elderly. If youlog on to the National Academy of ElderCare Attorneys' Web site (www.naela.org), you can find a listing of attorneys inyour area. The National Association ofGeriatric Care Managers' Web site (www.caremanager.org) lists certified specialistsin geriatric care. These specialists canassist with many difficult decisions thatelderly people face.

For general and specific informationon health issues, visit www.healthfinder.gov. For information on Medicare, go towww.medicare.gov. The National Associationof Caregivers (www.nfcacares.org) provides a wealth of information inaddition to support programs for familiesof caregivers. The AARP (800-424-3410; www.aarp.org) is a membershiporganization that provides access to discountservices, valuable information, andprograms for people over age 50.

• Hold a family meeting. It is importantthat you meet with your childrenand let them know about the preparationsyou have made and any preferencesyou have. You may even want toprovide them with a short list of healthcare providers you prefer to ease theprocess when the time comes.

Stewart H. Welch III, CFP®, AEP,founder of the Welch Group, hasbeen rated 1 of the nation's topfinancial advisors by Money andWorth. He welcomes questions orcomments from readers at 800-709-7100 or www.welchgroup.com. Reprintedwith permission from the Birmingham PostHerald. This article was taken, in part, from J.K. Lasser's New Rules for Estate and Tax Planning(John Wiley & Sons; 2001), coauthored byHarold Apolinsky, Esq, and Mr. Welch.