We know how crucial planning is, regardless of where we are in our lives. If we’re in our twenties, we’re encouraged to not waste time when it comes to retirement planning. When we’re in our thirties and forties, we’re working to ensure our planning efforts are successful in a way that allows our children to attend college. In our fifties, we’re looking ahead to retirement and working to pay off our mortgages and other debt. The same goes for caring for our aging parents. Planning means the difference in an enjoyable retirement or one that’s riddled with overwhelming “what if” scenarios.
Odds are, before your parents retired, they’d already put many plans for the future into place. From contributing to a retirement plan for forty years to ensuring proper life insurance and long term care policies were in place, there’s a good chance Mom and Dad wanted to eliminate some of the obstacles that can plague us as we age. But is it enough? How can we know the changing needs of aging parents are being met?
It’s no surprise that many Americans say their biggest challenge is healthcare. One major illness can result in the loss of everything they worked for. Medicaid planning can eliminate that concern, depending on your parents’ assets and income. Keep in mind, it’s all about planning as there are a few compliance issues that come with the qualification process. A five year look back period is one of those issues. This simply means any gifts or transfers of assets made in the past five years will be closely scrutinized and could result in a penalty or even a period of ineligibility. Proper planning avoids that scenario.
For those whose parents have considerable wealth, estate taxes could become problematic. If the estate’s worth is more than $5.43 million (or double for married couples), an estate tax could become an unwelcomed reality. The top estate tax rate is above 40%, which makes a life insurance policy an attractive way to cover the taxes. In fact, you parents may already have something like that in place.
Don’t underestimate the power of trusts. These financial and estate planning vehicles are effective ways of ensuring a family’s wealth is protected from creditors, taxes, spend down rules associated with Medicaid qualification, ex-spouses and more. They are also used to ensure wealth is passed to more than one generation. It’s important to choose a qualified estate planning lawyer who can help your parents put those protections in place.
Another crucial element is the power of attorney. These legal documents allow Mom and Dad to name someone to make decisions on their behalf should they become unable to do so. A financial power of attorney names a trusted party to cover financial considerations, such as paying the monthly utilities, insurance policies, automobile payments, etc. – either on a temporary or permanent basis. The medical power of power allows them to name someone to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are incapacitated. A living will should be part of that planning element, as well.
One of the bigger challenges is actually initiating the conversation. It can be awkward and even uncomfortable; however, many find that their parents are open and even relieved that it’s finally on the table. Remember, you and your parents share a common goal of ensuring their retirement years are worry-free and enjoyable. Once you have the door open, it becomes easier to discuss in an honest and loving way. Be sure a qualified estate planning attorney is part of the team so that there are no vulnerabilities or overlooked details.