It’s not too late! Take steps to make plans for your financial future. Whether it’s drawing up a full-fledged estate plan, or sitting down with family members to discuss the basics, there’s no time like the present to start taking proactive steps toward efficient financial planning in 2015. Here are three tips and that might help get you started:
1. Consider making an estate plan
An estate plan is not just for the wealthy. If you have any assets or tangible property (e.g. a baseball card collection) that you’d like disposed of in a specific way after your passing, an estate plan is a good first step towards seeing these desires fulfilled. Essentially, the term “estate plan” refers to the legal documents that outline your final wishes regarding your property. As part of an estate plan, you may draft a will, a trust, a pet directive, and even a disposition of remains. You may decide to tie in a living will (a.k.a. health directive), as well. If a person dies without a will (the legal term for this occurrence is “intestate”), then their property will be disposed of in accordance with the probate laws of that state. If you have specific wishes for your property, you should consider drawing up a will–just in case. Meeting with an experienced attorney to discuss estate planning options is a great way to start this process.
2. Think about involving folks you trust in important decisions
You have the option of giving certain decision-making authority to another individual. Depending on how much authority this person is given, he or she can be designated to make decisions on your behalf regarding legal matters, your finances or your health. A power of attorney (POA) is one such example. An executor can be selected to carry out your wishes with respect to the disposition of property pursuant to your will–after you pass away. By selecting the people who will be given decision-making capacity in advance, you minimize the chance that the responsible individual will end up making important decisions that are wrong for you. For example, health directives detail the medical treatment that an individual wishes to receive in the event that they should slip into a persistent vegetative state. The case involving Terry Schiavo was an example involving difficult issues related to such a decision. Some folks feel more comfortable assigning this responsibility to a professional in their family knowledgeable about healthcare, such as a doctor or nurse, rather than a relative with no medical background. The same “experience factor” may come into play when you consider choosing someone to assist you with legal decisions or your finances. And there may be opportunities to give the role of decision-maker to more than one person, in order to ensure that important outcomes aren’t determined by one individual. Alternately, you may choose to involve trusted individuals to assist in these matters, but without giving them any decision-making capacity. EverSafe offers this option to members who would like assistance in keeping an eye on their finances. If you do decide to designate an individual to assist in legal, health or financial matters, select someone trustworthy and inform them of your wishes – loud and clear.
3. Understand your Medicare coverage
In a nutshell, Medicare is a federal health insurance program that provides coverage to Americans, 65 and older, as well as the disabled. Seniors can access quality healthcare through their Medicare coverage. Medicare’s various options can cover hospital visits, drug prescriptions, doctor appointments, and more. One major gap in Medicare coverage, which is often misunderstood, is the fact that Medicare does not generally cover long term care in a nursing or assisted-living facility. Medicaid may cover this kind of long-term care but unlike Medicare, Medicaid beneficiaries are only eligible if their assets and income meet certain guidelines, pursuant to state law. If your long-term plans include the possibility of residing in an assisted-living facility someday, it can be very expensive. Consider having a discussion with your financial planner or attorney to make sure that this is feasible.