One of the biggest mistakes a person can make when planning for the future is to die intestate (without a will) but even those who have prepared a Will make errors that leave their last wishes in jeopardy. The elderly are particularly susceptible to overlooking important details. A few of these common errors include not pre-planning funeral arrangements, not taking advantage of tax exemption laws, not vouchsafing power of attorney and failing to readdress advanced medical directives to be followed in the event of illness or incapacitation.
As we grow older, our estate-planning needs change. Many elderly people may mistakenly think a Will is all they need to satisfy their estate plans. But that's often not the case. The five most common estate-planning mistakes that seniors are likely to make are probably:
- Not pre-planning funeral arrangements. Some people may feel uncomfortable with the idea of pre-planning their own funeral. As you age and attend services for others who have passed away you've probably started to think about your own funeral, memorial service and burial. Do you want a simple or elaborate service (or no service at all)? Are there favourite songs you'd like played? Prayers recited? Would you prefer to be buried or cremated? Pre-planning your funeral allows you to take the burden off of your family and gives you control over your funeral arrangements
- Not taking advantage of tax-exempt gift laws.
- Not discussing estate planning details with their loved ones. While you're alive and in relatively good health you'll want to discuss several estate-planning details with your family and loved ones. Before writing your Will talk to the person you'd like to act as your estate's executor. Are they comfortable taking on the responsibility? Even if you're not comfortable sharing the specifics of your will you'll want to let family members know where your last will and testament is stored so they can easily locate it after you pass away. Also consider sharing your end-of-life wishes. Have you created a living will? If so, what instructions have you left? Have you pre-planned your funeral? Where can those details be located? (Link to Wills page)
- Not creating a power of attorney. A power of attorney lets you designate someone to make certain legal and financial decisions on your behalf. (Link to Lasting Powers of Attorney page)
- Not regularly revisiting their advanced medical directives, including healthcare power of attorney and living will. Similar to a financial power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney allows you to name someone as your healthcare surrogate, empowering them to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. A living will allows you to share your end-of-life decisions. Do you want a do-not-resuscitate order? If your body is failing, do you want to be kept alive using artificial means? How much pain medicine would you like? What life sustaining treatments-such as dialysis and fluids-would you like to receive? As friends and family members grow your attitude towards life-sustaining treatment may change. It makes sense to regularly review your advanced medical directives, update the documents if your wishes change and share the new documents with your family and medical provider.
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