How Estate Planning Needs Change Throughout Your Life

Author

Stone Law, LLC

For more information about the author, click to view their website: Stone Law, LLC

Posted on

Jul 09, 2024

Book/Edition

Colorado - Denver Metro

Welcome to Legal Briefs, every month we will cover a topic of interest to our clients in one of our practice areas. First up … What’s the big deal? Does everyone really need estate planning? The short answer is yes. Let’s address why at a few key life stages.

Young Adults

Once you turn 18 years of age, you need a will and medical and financial powers of attorney (POA). Why? These documents allow for someone you trust to step in and help when needed. Emergencies and accidents happen. If you get sick or injured, a medical power of attorney can help with HIPAA, ensuring your trusted health care agent makes decisions with doctors and medical staff. Similarly, if you are unable to make financial decisions, a financial power of attorney names someone you trust to act on your behalf. A will names beneficiaries for assets and personal property and establishes your personal representative, who makes decisions regarding your estate if you pass away. At Stone Law we take the time to meet with you and help you ensure these basic estate planning building blocks meet your needs and wishes.

Young Families  

As you start a family it’s important to have a will naming guardians for minor children. This allows you to determine who will care for your children, instead of leaving this crucial decision up to a court or judge. As with any stage in life, it’s still wise to have medical and financial powers of attorney so decision making is easier if you are unable to act for yourself. Your spouse or significant other does not automatically have a right to make
decisions for you. Medical and financial powers of attorney are necessary to make sure the right people have authority to act on your behalf when needed. Stone Law’s Young Family Plan is designed to fit easily into the chaos and busyness of your life at this stage.

Older Families and Adults

As you grow older your needs change. Estate planning should be updated every few years. As children grow, a more comprehensive estate plan can help protect your legacy for your adult children. Trusts change the way your assets and estate planning work. They allow flexibility across state lines, protection for blended families, and additional privacy. Depending on laws when your trust is signed, trusts can also plan for tax issues and concerns. Your situation is unique to you, at Stone Law we take the time to meet with you, working together to determine what kinds of planning best meet your needs and circumstances.

Does it feel like there’s no good time to sit down and discuss who you want in these roles when busy with work, parenting and life? You are not alone. Instead of avoiding a difficult conversation, give Stone Law a call at 877-897-6591 today. Allow us to work with you, whatever stage you are in, ensuring the process fits your busy life. Start your path to peace of mind today.

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The Surprising Connection Between Health and Estate Planning

You already know that taking care of your health allows you to prolong your life and enhance your quality of life. But have you given serious thought to how your health directly impacts your future? Your legacy? The ones you love the most? What were talking about here is estate planning, and its every bit as important as your physical health. I know, I know, it could sound weird to equate health with estate planning but hear me out. By the end of the article, the connection will be clear.  The Link Between Your Health and Estate PlanningEstate planning often brings to mind wills, trusts, and other legal paperwork, and in fact, thats maybe what you initially thought when you read the title of this article. However, I want to challenge that assumption with this: the documents are merely the byproduct of estate planning. You may be thinking, how are documents the byproduct of estate planning? Heres what I mean.Estate planning is all about ensuring your wishes are honored if you become incapacitated so you can live and die with dignity. Its also about ensuring that the people you love most will know you loved them, that theyre cared for when youre gone in a way you cared for them while you lived, and that youve removed all the pain, potential conflict and expense they will have to endure if you have no plan in place. Estate planning supports your loved ones to grieve in peace rather than face a long, expensive court process or confusion regarding how to find your assets or understand what to do when you are gone. Estate planning is also about leaving a legacy. Contrary to what you may be thinking - that legacy is not only related to money and reserved for the wealthy and philanthropic - legacy is about the mark you make on those you hold most dear. Its about defining your humanity and what you stood for. Putting your affairs in order now so your loved ones dont have to deal with a mess later is a legacy, too. Making it clear that you loved your family is a legacy. What about health? How does your health connect with estate planning?Your health plays a significant role in shaping your preparations for the future in general, and how you structure your estate plan in particular. I want to first say that while health can refer to mental health, emotional health and spiritual health, and all are important, well focus on physical health here. So lets take a look at the direct link between your physical health and estate planning. Youll come to see that by prioritizing your physical health, you can not only enjoy life with more ease, but also avoid complications in your estate planning. Longevity and Retirement Savings. Your physical health has a direct impact on your lifespan, which in turn affects how long your retirement savings need to last. If you maintain good physical health, youre likely to live longer (yay!) and will need a more extensive plan regarding your assets, for your longer life.Healthcare Decisions. Consider the potential need for long-term care. Alzheimer's or dementia could require long-term care solutions that you may or may not choose. In your estate plan, its crucial to not only make sure youre financially covered for these possibilities, but to also ensure youve made it clear how you want to be cared for, if you cannot make decisions for yourself. There comes a point in time at which its too late for you to make your wishes known and given that you are reading this now is the time to document what you would choose, if you could not choose.This is why you need a healthcare power of attorney, or a living will in your plan. These are documents that designate the person (or people) you choose to make medical decisions on your behalf if youre unable to do so. Your designated healthcare agent (or agents) will not only ensure that your healthcare preferences are respected but will also align your medical treatment with your personal wishes. Without these documents in place, a judge (i.e., a complete stranger) could appoint someone to act on your behalf. Maybe even someone you dont trust or wouldnt want making decisions for you. Or, in a worst-case scenario, a judge could even appoint a professional conservator who could drain your estate financially.Disability and Its Impact. Poor health can sometimes lead to disability, affecting your ability to manage your own affairs. Including a disability clause in your estate plan ensures that your assets are managed according to your wishes, even if youre not able to oversee them personally. A revocable living trust can be particularly useful here, as it allows your chosen person or entity to manage your affairs without the need for court intervention. Again, without a plan in place, a judge will make decisions for you, and those decisions may not be what you want.Having gone through the potential consequences of not prioritizing your physical health and its direct link to your estate planning, lets turn to practical steps you can take now to make sure you and your family dont have to experience any negative consequences. Practical Steps to Integrate Health and Estate PlanningUnless youre already incapacitated and cant make decisions for yourself, know that its not too late to take action. Its not too early, either. Death and incapacity dont discriminate based on age. When you face that fact, and then plan accordingly, you can live life with more ease, more joy, and less stress. Truly.So, if you havent planned for the future, here are some practical steps you can take now:Schedule Regular Check-Ups. It may seem obvious, but regular medical examinations are vital. They not only help in detecting illnesses early but also provide a clear picture of your health, which, as weve discussed above, is crucial for accurate estate planning. If you discover a new health condition, you can plan accordingly when youve caught it in time. If not, it could be too late to get your plan in place.Update Your Estate Plan Regularly: As your health changes, so should your estate plan. Make it a habit to review and update your plan on a regular basis or whenever there is a significant change in your health. As an Estate Planning Attorney, I can not only help you get your initial plan in place, but with a unique process I use called Life & Legacy Planning, I will always include a free review of your plan at least every three years. This ensures your plan works because it will be updated as your health, life and assets change over time. Without updates, your plan will fail, sending your family to court and increasing the probability of conflict. Discuss Your Plans Openly: Talk with your family about your healthcare wishes and how they relate to your estate plan. Taking this courageous, and maybe uncomfortable, step, makes a big difference when it comes to decreasing the likelihood of conflict in your family. Make sure to discuss your preferences for end-of-life care, which can create conflict in your family if you havent clarified your wishes. Consult A Professional Who Has Your Best Interests in Mind: I approach estate planning from a place of heart, always keeping your best interests, and by extension, your loved ones best interests, in mind. I not only help you to get your plan in place, but also help you keep your family out of court and conflict, so your legacy is one of love and care. I can also help you navigate difficult discussions with your family about your wishes, so you can feel confident knowing youve done all you can to preserve the family bonds. How We Support You and Your Loved OnesAs an Estate Planning Law Firm, we recognize the integral connection between your physical health and your estate planning needs. Our commitment goes beyond mere legal documentation; we aim to ensure your life's work and values are preserved with dignity and clarity. By understanding the specific challenges and opportunities that arise from your health, we tailor estate plans that not only protect your assets but also your well-being and your family's future. Contact Entrusted Legacy Law at 412-347-1731 or click here to schedule a complimentary 15-Minute call.

Family Involvement in Elder Law

As an estate planning and elder law attorney, I have seen a little bit of everything over the past 20 years. I am a big believer in having loved ones be part of the estate planning process to ensure that everybody is on the same page. Unfortunately, there are a few unscrupulous individuals whose objectives are to take advantage of their parents in one way or another. This does not change my opinion that estate planning and elder law are a team sport and that they should always include the financial advisor, the accountant, as well as the family. However, it is imperative that the professionals who are working with the individual stay vigilant and watch for signs of exploitation or abuse. Although it can often be very subtle, professionals usually have the skills and the tools to be able to see through it and bring attention to it. In an extreme case, a professional will contact the Area Agency on Aging and notify the Adult Protective Services division. They have authority under the Adult Protective Services Act to protect individuals in or around our community. However, that is definitely the exception to the rule, and in most cases, it is enough to have the family members leave the room and talk to the client alone to determine whether or not they are being unduly influenced or if they are speaking freely on their own. Most elderly individuals dont always realize what is occurring and therefore are not trying to hide it. They dont realize what is going on, so a trained professional can often ask the right questions to determine if something is not right. In the vast majority of cases, I do think that having family involvement in the elder law process is beneficial to everyone involved.

Elder Law Services for Denvers Seniors Advocacy Is Ageless

We provide comprehensive Elder Law planning by reviewing assets, income and transfers in order to determine the elders needs and identify any other legal needs that should be addressed in the plan. Initially these plans are done with a focus on long term care planning, asset protection and Medicaid. Medicaid is a government program that is available to pay for long term care for individuals who are medically and financially eligible. We look at ways to create a safety net of overlapping resources so the individual can maximize their sense of security and independence.We specialize in the following areas of Elder Law:Incapacity: Incapacity is a formal, legal finding made by a judge in the context of a guardianship proceeding, after a hearing and introduction of clear and convincing evidence. Although the Courts appointment of a guardian for an individual constitutes a formal finding of incapacity, no such legal finding of incapacity is associated with a courts appointment of a conservator for an individual. For more information regarding guardianships and conservatorships, please click here.Although a legally incapacitated person lacks the capacity to be able to do things like write a will or enter into contracts, there are varying degrees of capacity short of a legal finding of incapacity within which a person may still be able to enter into legally valid, binding or enforceable arrangements. These situations include:Mental Capacity to Write a Will:  Testamentary capacity consists of mentality and memory sufficient to understand intelligently the nature and purpose of a transaction, comprehend generally the nature and extent of the property to be disposed of, remember who are the natural objects of the testators bounty, comprehend what the testator wishes to bequeath to his or her heirs or devisees with reference to the way those people behaved and treated the testator, and with regard to those individuals capacity and need, and understand the nature and effect of the desired disposition.Mental Capacity to Gift:  The essential requirements of a valid gift from one living person to another are a clear and unmistakable intention to make a gift, and a complete parting of possession and surrender by the donor of all control and dominion over the same to the done.  Questions of whether an individual lacked sufficient capacity to be able to clearly, unmistakably and knowingly form an intention to make a gift and completely surrender an item can be subject to litigation and are questions of fact determined by the court or, occasionally, by a jury.Mental Capacity to Contract:  For an individual to have sufficient mental capacity to enter into a contract, the individual must not be under the influence of fraud, coercion or imposition.  There is valid authority in Colorado for the notion that contractual capacity is legally the same as testamentary capacity, referenced above.  Competency to contract is determined by a partys mental state at the time of execution of the agreement.  Every person is presumed by the law to be sane and competent for the purpose of entering into a contract.  A party can be insane for some purposes, yet still have the capacity to contract.  However, a person is incompetent to contract when the subject matter of the contract is so connected with an insane delusion as to render the afflicted party incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the agreement or of acting rationally in the transaction.Mental Capacity to Marry:  Under Colorado statutory law, a decree of invalidity of a marriage will be issued when the marriage was entered into when a party lacked capacity to consent to the marriage at the time the marriage was solemnized, whether because of mental incapacity or infirmity or because of the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other incapacitating substances.  The district court must also enter a decree of invalidity of a marriage entered into when one party entered into the marriage in reliance upon a fraudulent act or representation of the other party, which fraudulent act or representation goes to the essence of the marriage, or one or both parties entered into the marriage under duress exercised by the other party or a third party.Medicaid/Medicare: Dealing with Medicaid and Medicare issues, including working through applications, eligibility, hearings and appeals, can be confusing, time-consuming and frustrating.  Our team has the experience and know-how to help you successfully navigate Medicaid and Medicare.Long Term Care Planning: We can guide you with a forward-thinking approach to Long Term Care.  Although the term Long Term Care is often mistakenly thought to exclusively mean long term care insurance coverage, a more accurate and holistic view is that Long Term Care should cover a broad range of strategic planning, including but not limited to long term care insurance, Medicaid, Veterans Benefits, and other resources that may be used to pay for Long Term Care needs.Call us today to schedule an appointment, 303-783-9600.

Local Services By This Author

Stone Law, LLC

Estate Planning 225 Union Boulevard, Lakewood, Colorado, 80228

At Stone Law, LLC we support you and your family with any aging and disability concerns. We can help make sure you have a solid plan for these and other 'what ifs' to give you peace of mind. Our primary goal is to advocate for the elderly so no one can take advantage or manipulate a situation to their benefit. We aim to make sure your needs and wishes are met. We will always be sensitive to your needs and emotions as you age. We also recognize that issues and concerns are broader than simply addressing legal needs and can facilitate partnerships with other helpful agencies. At Stone Law, we get to know you and your family so we can help you create a customized estate plan that will pass along your estate exactly the way you want it.

Stone Law

Trust Management 225 Union Boulevard, Lakewood, Colorado, 80228

At Stone Law, LLC we support you and your family with any aging and disability concerns. We can help make sure you have a solid plan for these and other 'what ifs' to give you peace of mind. Our primary goal is to advocate for the elderly so no one can take advantage or manipulate a situation to their benefit. We aim to make sure your needs and wishes are met. We will always be sensitive to your needs and emotions. We also recognize that issues and concerns are broader than simply addressing legal needs and can facilitate partnerships with other helpful agencies. At Stone Law, we get to know you and your family so we can help you create a customized plan that helps everyone be on the same page.

Stone Law, LLC

Elder Law 225 Union Boulevard, Lakewood, Colorado, 80228

At Stone Law, LLC we support you and your family with any aging and disability concerns. We can help make sure you have a solid plan for these and other 'what ifs' to give you peace of mind. Our primary goal is to advocate for the elderly so no one can take advantage or manipulate a situation to their benefit. We aim to make sure your needs and wishes are met. We will always be sensitive to your needs and emotions. We also recognize that issues and concerns are broader than simply addressing legal needs and can facilitate partnerships with other helpful agencies. At Stone Law, we get to know you and your family so we can help you create a customized plan that helps everyone be on the same page.