In recent weeks, we’ve looked at the process of legacy planning and why it’s an important exercise for financial professionals and their clients. There’s certainly a lot to consider, and the process can be daunting. One way to make it a little more manageable is to use an old tried and true method- the checklist. Here are three key things for clients to consider.
Estate planning and beneficiary designations
This is always a good place to start. It’s important to have basic estate planning documents such as wills and trusts in place. It’s also important to make sure all of your beneficiary designations are up to date and accurately reflect your wishes.
There are a couple of important reasons to start here. First off, we need to be prepared. Chances are that most of us will live a very long time in retirement. Ultimately, however, planning is about that very small possibility that we don’t.
There is also another reason to address this first. Estate plans and beneficiary designations generally cannot be changed once someone loses their legal capacity. If someone is impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke, or any other medical condition that leaves them unable to act on their behalf, it may be too late.
Powers of attorney and advanced health care directives
A big part of legacy planning is making sure that the people we will rely on to help us have the tools they need to do it effectively. For example, if we get to a point where we need help managing our financial affairs, we will need to give someone that authority in a power of attorney. While family members may be providing us with informal assistance with paying bills or keeping track of financial accounts, they don’t have the legal authority to act on our behalf until we give it to them through a properly executed power of attorney.
Similarly, most of us will eventually get to a point where we are unable to make medical decisions for ourselves. A power of attorney for healthcare, or healthcare proxy, can designate a loved one to make those decisions for us. Because these can often be emotionally difficult, life or death decisions, it’s important to make our wishes known. A living will tells our families and doctors what type of end-of-life care we want. This can provide comfort in a difficult time.
A plan for housing and care
What most of us hope for in retirement is a long and happy life with our families. A thoughtful plan can help make this a reality. For example, we know that many of us will want to stay comfortably in our homes as long as we can. Single floor living arrangements can help. Modifications to kitchens and bathrooms can improve accessibility and safety. Technology such as smartwatches or wearable emergency beacons can help seniors feel secure even as they live alone.
Of course, a plan will also consider what happens when help is needed. Families can provide some care but know where to turn when professional care is necessary. Because things can change quickly, having home health care providers and assisted living options identified and selected in advance can make it easier to promptly arrange for help.
Of course, having a plan to cover the costs of care is also important. Because most long-term care policies feature an elimination period before coverage is available, working with families to get the required medical documentation as quickly as possible can help get costs covered faster. For clients who don’t have long-term care insurance, identifying other assets to efficiently pay for care is important. If a client doesn’t have assets available, a referral to a qualified elder law attorney can help with the Medicaid qualification process.
Legacy and Estate Planning Resources
Nationwide’s Legacy Essentials program offers a wealth of materials that can help with this process, including checklists, guides, conversation starters, podcasts, and white papers. For more information, visit https://nationwidefinancial.com/nationwide-retirement-institute/legacy-essentials/estate.