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Do retirement and estate planning go hand-in-hand?

One of the biggest concerns many individuals have about getting older is mental decline brought on by conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia. In addition to long-term care costs, the lack of mental capacity that results from such conditions often means that an individual may no longer be able to make his or her own decisions about finances, medical decisions or estate planning. It's no surprise that a spokesperson at the Alzheimer’s Association characterizes the condition as the public health crisis of our time.

Although modern medicine does not have a cure for Alzheimer’s, a recent study indicates that the rate of dementia has decreased sharply in recent years. Since 2000, the rate of dementia in seniors over age 65 has fallen from 11.6 percent to 8.8 percent in 2012. That translates into a decline of about 24 percent. One theory for the decline is better overall health and educational levels, both of which are believed to impact brain health.

Our elder law firm has found that estate planning can be a comprehensive way to plan for the future. An estate plan typically includes a will, a revocable living trust, powers of attorney and an advanced health care directive. Let's take a closer look at each of these.

A power of attorney authorizes an individual to make financial decisions on behalf of a person who can no longer make them. A health care directive describes the medical care than an individual might accept or decline in the event of incapacity. A living revocable will creates a legal structure to avoid probate, yet allows an individual to remain the trustee and beneficiary during his or her lifetime. Finally, a will can be used to incorporate, by reference, all of these documents, and also identify transfers of personal property and account for any pour-over assets.

In sum, elder law is about proactivity. Senior citizens may face a range of unexpected issues, ranging from medical needs to cash flow concerns in retirement. Those areas overlap with estate planning goals. By planning ahead, an individual can approach retirement with peace of mind and a plan in place.

Source: MedCity News, “Study shows steep decline in dementia rates for seniors,” Liz Szabo, Nov. 21, 2016

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