Estate Planning: Are You Prepared for Incapacity?

Not too long ago, estate planning was all about the estate tax tail wagging a sometimes reluctant dog. That was unfortunate for a number of reasons, among them, the focus on estate taxes caused planners to look beyond all those who had no estate tax problem. Likewise, those without that estate tax problem walked around unaware that they probably should do some planning nonetheless.DSC02461

Did I just describe you? If so, maybe it’s time think again about the need to do some estate planning.

Though avoiding estate taxes still motivates some (very well off) people to plan, the driving force behind estate planning these days for most people is one or more of the following. The desire to

  • Maintain control of their property while they’re alive and well;
  • Provide for themselves and their loved ones if they become disabled or incapacitated;
  • Give what they have
    • To whom they want,
    • The way they want,
    • When they want, and
  • Minimize the impact of professional fees, court costs, and taxes–typically income taxes first, then estate.

That second item, the one about providing for your family if you’re disabled or otherwise  incapacitated, is a big one. Did you know that a 20 year old has a 1 in 4 chance of becoming disabled before they retire? It gets worse with age. According to a 2005 AARP study,

The lifetime probability facing a 65 year old of developing a disability in at least two primary activities of daily living for at least three months or becoming cognitively impaired is 44 percent for males turning age 65 and 72 percent for females. Therefore, women face a 64 percent higher risk than do men.

A well-drafted estate plan will address those probabilities and ensure that you and your loved ones are better able to deal with a disability or mental incapacity should it happen. That plan will include

  1. The designation of a trustee and/or agent to manage your property while you’re unable;
  2. A living will, so your doctor and loved ones will know what you want done when you’re unable to communicate; and
  3. A health care power of attorney, so your health care agent can do what you would do in the same circumstances–if you were able.

Those last two items collectively are known in Utah and Wyoming as an advance health care directive by the way. Do you have one in place? Do you have a trustee or agent to manage your property in case you no longer can? Then maybe it’s time to do some estate planning.

 

 

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