If you are an American citizen between the ages of 55 and 65, chances are very good that you own a small business, that you have a life expectancy of more than 80 years, and that you do not have a will. There are more than 75 million Americans who are part of the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1954, and as they age, they are posting impressive statistics. They use the internet in record numbers, they do research and make purchases with technology that was not even invented until they were in their 40s, and they continue to increase their charitable giving.
And millions of Baby Boomers, when they do pass away after a long, healthy live filled with activity, will die intestate, meaning without a formal will. Older Americans may be interested to note that they can give up to $5.4 million to another individual after they die without having to pay estate taxes, but an estate without a will could take years to resolve in court.
Experts recommend that people with assets should also investigate the possibility of establishing a trust; being able to avoid extensive probate proceedings — which can delay bequests and financial transfers — and reducing estate taxes are both compelling reasons to obtain legal services for long-term estate planning purposes.
The process of completing a will, however complex, should be undertaken in order to clarify individual’s wishes for the distribution of their property and assets well in advance of their death. In addition, contracting with an elder law attorney — who may be able to provide a wide range of legal services — to draft and certify a living will, also known as an advanced directive, can help people ensure that their wishes are followed for their health care needs. In the event that a person becomes incapacitated, a living will can both allow them to appoint a friend or family member to make medical decisions and can also allow for the detailed description of an individual’s wishes regarding health care.
Although obtaining legal services in order to draft a living will may seem like something that is best delayed until an actual health care crisis presents itself, having a legal document can provide protection against being kept alive after brain death or functional incapacity. About 80% of American seniors report that they would like to be removed from life support and would not like extreme measures taken to keep them alive — in some circumstances, CPR can break bones and can contribute to a patient’s suffering — but without a living will, there is no guarantee that a patient’s wishes will be followed.
While nobody wishes to contemplate a world that they are no longer a part of, finding the time to have legal services make a will and a living will can save thousands in estate taxes, can make sure that bank and email passwords are passed to family members, and can ensure that health care preferences are followed. For the more than 35 million Baby Boomers without a will, the best time for legal services may be right now.