Essential Legal Documents For Retirement Planning

Essential Legal Documents for Retirement Planning

Updated on Nov 01 2018


Preparing for your future retirement needs includes drawing essential legal documents you and your loved ones will need if there’s ever a time when you’re incapacitated or no longer able to make sound financial or medical decisions.

Careful retirement planning involves getting your essential legal documents set up for the future to make sure your wishes are met for end of life care, asset management and more.

The Aging, Demographics and Memory Study backed by the National Institute on Aging figures that 14 percent of Americans age 71 and older have some form of dementia, and the Chicago Health and Aging Project estimates that nearly one-third of people 85 and older have Alzheimer’s. These sobering percentages are likely to worsen with the longevity revolution in America. The reality is that not enough families are addressing the tough topic of managing money and cognitive decline that is inevitable with aging.

Advance planning will help alleviate a lot of stress for everyone involved if essential legal documents that address health and financial wishes are drawn ahead of time. It’s important to be proactive and take the time to make sure someone has durable power of attorney, or the authority to make financial decisions if you become incapacitated.

Think about it: If you don’t get legal specifications handled in advance, there will be many legal hoops for your family that will not only take time and be expensive but will also heighten emotion during an already intense time with expensive healthcare and end-of-life costs. 

Here are the important documents you will want to get in order with the help of a local certified elder care attorney who understands the relevant state’s laws and regulations:

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney gives a designated person the authority to make financial decisions for someone else, such as signing checks to pay bills, handling tax returns and selling a home. Unlike a general power of attorney, a durable power remains in place if the person for whom the decision is being made becomes incapacitated and can’t make decisions for him or herself. A regular power of attorney ends if the person who issued the power of attorney becomes incapacitated.

Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy is essentially a power of attorney for medical decisions. It allows you to make choices about treatments, doctors and other health-related matters.

Living Will

Also known as an advance directive for health care, a living will lets your loved one specify the medical treatment that he or she wants—or doesn’t want—near the end of life.

Updated Will

A will dictates what happens to any of your family member’s assets after his or her death.

Living Trust

If you have substantial assets, a living trust makes it easier for someone else to manage the assets, such as homes and investment accounts. The agent or trustee must follow the specific instructions of the person who created the trust, which can contain all of a person’s assets other than IRAs and 401(k)s, which can only be owned by an individual.

There’s no time like the present to get your legal documents in order. A professional certified elder law attorney can help you prepare your documents today. A fiduciary financial advisor can also help you get your affairs in order. Just make sure to find an expert who understands the relevant state’s laws and regulations to ensure your healthcare wishes, estate and financial assets are protected.

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