The Baby Boomers are aging, and they are ever more computer-savvy. A recent New York Times article discussed a number of start-up companies that are trying to appeal to the ‘online shopping’ crowd, even for end-of-life issues. You can shop online for a funeral home, comparing costs and services. You can even shop for a casket or an urn. There are also online companies that offer Wills, health care proxies and powers of attorney that you can fill out online.
Shopping for a funeral home online, maybe. But, as appealing as it might be to fill out a standard Will or power of attorney from the comfort of your own home, it is unwise. Making uninformed decisions can lead to unintended consequences, including even financial disaster.
Why? The biggest issue is, it’s a complex world. You may think your Will doesn’t have to be complicated, but each person has his or her own wishes – and issues. Some of these issues may not occur to you to address until it’s too late. They concern not only your estate, once you pass on, but also how to protect the assets you have while you are living, so they can last as long as you do. Estate planning can mesh with Elder Law planning to benefit you now, and benefit your heirs later.
You may have no children, you may have a disabled child, step-children, or estranged children. You may have a wife or husband who needs expensive care, one successful child and one who has given up a job to take care of you, a charity you want to contribute to – the list is endless. These days, blended families are common, and that adds to planning complexity as well. It is wise, and often far more efficient, to engage a professional whose job it is to explore the issues that are important to you. With his or her help, you can create an estate plan that provides assurance that your wishes will be carried out.
Add to that, the risk that, if you need long-term care, you could easily end up with no estate at all unless you do advance planning. Many seniors wind up spending down their entire life’s savings when home care or nursing home care is needed, when that could have been avoided.
When our clients learn that a trust can protect their home and their assets if they need long-term care, they are often surprised. But it’s true in New York, and information like this is one of the reasons it’s crucial that people talk to an experienced estate planning attorney or, even better, an Elder Law attorney, if they are doing planning regarding end-of-life preparations.