Here is a brief overview on how to take some basic steps in organizing yourself for the elder years.
Legal to-do list. By Anthony J. Enea, Esq.
A. Physically organize your affairs by collecting and putting into separate folders your most important legal documents: original Last Will and Testament, Trust(s), Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, property deeds, mortgages, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports.
B. Review and update your existing Last Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Proxies to ensure that they are up-to-date and reflect your present financial circumstances and wishes. For example, the Power of Attorney you signed appointing your spouse to act as your agent at a house closing may not be the one you need if you suffer a debilitating illness. You should also, in my opinion, have a Durable Power of Attorney with as many powers as humanly possible (including broad gifting powers).
C. Organize and review all existing insurance policies. We often know that we have purchased Life, Disability and Long Term Care insurance, but it may be years since we assessed the adequacy and the coverage of these policies. For example, from an estate tax and planning perspective, it may be wise to have the policy owned by an irrevocable life insurance trust, so that it is not part of your taxable estate. Generally, most insurance professionals are willing to provide a no-cost review of one's existing policies.
D. Professional contacts: Organize and list the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all the professionals (lawyers, accountants, etc.) you are currently utilizing for your family and/or loved ones.
E. Health care providers: Organize the names, addresses and telephone numbers of your physicians, therapists, pharmacies and other health care providers. At a time of crisis having this information in one spot will be invaluable.
F. Bank and other financial records: Inventory, organize and keep at least 8 years of your bank and other financial records.
G. Long Term Care: Review what steps if any you have taken to protect your life savings in the event you and/or your spouse/significant other need long term care in the future. The purchase of long term care insurance should be strongly considered. There are many new products that are available that are a hybrid of life insurance and long term care insurance. Additionally, utilization of a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust should be high on the list of available planning options, especially as you get closer to the age of 65.
H. Review and assess any pension, social security and annuity benefits you are entitled to. Review potential IRA and/or qualified annuities and their minimum required distributions.
I. Review and assess your retirement goals and plans. If you are facing retirement, an organized exit plan and strategy can help avoid significant havoc for yourself, your estate, and your family.
J. Review and organize your burial arrangements. The purchase in advance of a burial plot(s), mausoleum, crypt, etc., while it may sound morbid, will generally alleviate a great deal of stress from your family and loved ones upon your demise.