elder couple sitting on the grass smiling at each other

Sometimes, effective reminders are necessary to motivate the vital, but procrastinated decisions essential for planning for the future, and the month of May provides a number of good reminders, particularly for senior adults.

May is National Stroke Awareness month. According to data from the National Institutes of Health, more than 800,000 Americans suffer strokes every year, and almost 3/4 of those cases occur in people over the age of 65. Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States and contributes to more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease. Furthermore, the risk of having a stroke doubles for each decade you live after the age of 55.

May was designated as National Stroke Awareness Month in an effort to increase public awareness about the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke, along with education about stroke prevention. According to research, 80% of strokes are caused by lifestyle, which means behavioral changes can help make a stroke preventable. Taking steps, such as losing weight, lowering cholesterol, getting more exercise, giving up smoking, and controlling your blood pressure, can go a long way in stroke avoidance.

May also is known as Elder Law Month. This designation was established by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), a professional association of lawyers who specialize in providing valuable legal services to older individuals and their families.

Throughout May, elder law attorneys, such as those at TuckerAllen, commit extra time and attention to educate the public about the need for elder care advocacy and counseling. Among the topics are long-term health care options, Social Security, Medicaid, advance directives, wills, trusts, the probate process, succession plans, Power of Attorney documents, and many other important legal issues.

Within that wide spectrum of elder care support services, one of the most common and popular is crafting an estate plan.

Basics of Estate Planning

An estate plan is a process of determining and legally recording what would happen to your assets and property when the inevitable time comes to transfer or disperse them. Typically, that occurs upon your death, but it can refer to a debilitating health care issue.

Without specific inheritance planning and proper documentation, your assets—such as your home, investments, savings accounts, valuables, etc. —can end up in probate court. The probate process may drag on for years, and the subsequent legal fees are paid from the estate property, reducing the amount you leave to your heirs.

A recent survey from Wells Fargo discovered that four in ten older Americans have not prepared the critical documents they need to manage their financial and health matters if they should die or become incapacitated. A will is one key aspect of an estate plan, but there is much more to it.

Some people assume that estate planning is only for the wealthy, but everybody needs an estate plan. Whatever amount you have earned and accumulated throughout your life, the fact remains that you want your loved ones to have it when you are gone.

In those respects, the main purpose of an estate plan is to protect your assets and make sure the right people eventually receive them, according to your wishes.

However, for many older adults, estate planning also involves critical management of your extended health care responsibilities. An estate plan may stipulate how you want your medical needs to be handled. As noted above, tens of thousands of Americans are incapacitated by strokes every year. The ones who have an estate plan in place can save their families a lot of stress and anxiety about their health care needs.

An estate plan also can include financial choices you want to make while you are still healthy, such as establishing business succession procedures, naming insurance beneficiaries, and arranging charitable endowments. A solid estate plan can lower the tax liabilities for your inheritors.

TuckerAllen is dedicated to helping you understand the importance and benefits of estate planning. Their attorneys will help guide you, based on your unique needs, as you navigate living wills, trusts, health care proxies, probate, estate taxes, and other intricacies of the aging process.

Without proper estate planning, your assets are at risk from the government, lawsuits, or even members of your own family. To learn more, contact us for your estate plan analysis.

The Importance of Having an Estate Plan