Presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning, www.bradfordholliman.com
No, not the seniors in caps and gowns – the ones with silver hair, no hair, perhaps a few wrinkles, and a few misplaced keys. Today, some 762,000+ Alabamians are “seniors.” That’s 20.3% of our population and higher than the national estimate of 14.5% of Americans 65 and older. The Center for Disease Control reported that the 72,000+ American centenarians (100 and older) were living in 2014 which reflects an increase of 44% from 2000.
Your estate plan needs to reflect a really long life. Instead of focusing on who will eventually inherit your favorite jewelry or paintings through your will, your estate plan should focus on your latter years. Although we all hope to live well until we drop, chances are our capabilities and health will decline requiring outside help. Setting up your assets in the right kind of trust with the right co-trustees means that you can keep the reins in your hands until help is needed, protecting your assets for your use.
One centenarian we know is 100 and 6 months… and counting. A revocable trust she set up 18 years ago with a co-trustee has allowed her 63-year-old daughter to take over responsibilities gradually on an as-needed basis. The daughter/co-trustee now manages financial affairs by working with her mother’s accountant, investment advisor, and home care agency, making decisions that the centenarian is no longer comfortable making on her own. The co-trustee took care of a recent roof leak by working with the insurance company and contractor. The co-trustee also coordinates medications and medical care through a healthcare directive.
This trust avoids potentially acrimonious family situations of “who is in charge of what?” It also avoids the court costs of an incapacity hearing, or a guardianship or conservatorship process which would require ongoing reports back to the court. When this lovely centenarian eventually dies, her trust becomes irrevocable, and the co-trustee can distribute her assets to her heirs as specified. The trust avoids the probate process and costs and keeps the estate private, not part of public records.
Note that this centenarian did not wait until she was 100 to set up her trust either, so don’t put off talking about your specific situation with a qualified estate planning and trust attorney. Enjoy your latter years knowing that your future assistance has already been set up as you think is best.
-Melanie Bradford Holliman
Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC
Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trusts.
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