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Estate Planning for Seniors

We could have written hundreds of pages on estate planning. In fact, there are many books currently on the market, and your attorney, financial advisor, estate planner, accountant, etc., can provide you with a great deal more information than is covered here.

We have just chosen to cover a few of the subjects that seem to be at the forefront of seniors’ concerns right now.

It is important to have a basic estate plan in place.This plan should include:

  • A will and a living will or medical power of attorney
  • An assignment of power of attorney
  • In some cases a trust (check with your attorney)
  • A list of all your assets and where they are (Click here for a form)
  • A discussion with your attorney involving whom do you want to inherit various assets.
  • Whom do you want handling your affairs if you are unable to act yourself?
  • Whom do you want making medical decisions if you are unable to act yourself?
  • How do you want your assets distributed?
  • Do you want to name a guardian for your children?

Find an Attorney
If you are interested in locating an elder law attorney near where you live go to The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc and click on "locate an elder law attorney" near where you live.  To reach a list of attorneys specializing in estate planning, go to American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.   

Assignment of Power of Attorney
The American Bar Association website offers the following advice:   Your attorney should be able to give you guidelines to follow however it is usually best to get your children and heirs to approve these plans ahead of time. However it is important to ‘spell out’ what you want ahead of time. This approach generally avoids at least some of problems (and suits) that could result. Remember the power of attorney covers your finances but you also need a document that covers your health care decisions if you are unable to act for yourself. A medical power of attorney can help, but each state has different laws and regulations governing what can and can’t be done.

Ethical Wills/Legacy Letters
According to Wikipedia an ethical will is a document designed to pass ethical values from one generation to the next. It is an aid to estate planning

Traditional wills involve what you want your loved ones to have. Ethical wills involve what you want your loved ones to know.

Letters to Trustees
Writing a separate letter to trustees can help communicate your thoughts and can be highly valuable to trustees in understanding your intent.  The letter will provide more perspective and guidance and help guide the trustee use their professional discretion.   While a letter to trustees is not a binding legal document, it can be an extraordinarily meaningful piece of estate and legacy planning.

Family Story
Write to communicate your values, wisdom, history, stories, and love from one generation to another. Tell readers who you are and what matters most to you. It’s a way for you to be remembered and to make a real difference. Consider writing this as a “family story” providing your thoughts, experiences what you want passed on to your immediate family, future generations and perhaps close friends.  You might include everything from: What have I been about? Who were the most influential people in my life? What is the greatest lesson I learned—and want to pass on? Whose forgiveness do I need? Who do I want to forgive? What are the values associated with our financial assets that I want my spouse and the generations that follow me to know? What family history do I want described?

See information on how to write an ethical will

 Purchase Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper

End of Life Planning--Questions and Answers
The period leading up to the end of life is something for which few are prepared. It can be an emotional time, one where families often seek to comfort each other and find

closure with someone they care deeply about. By planning and taking action before this emotional time, you may find comfort in knowing that all financial, medical
and other matters have been addressed in a clear and concise manner. Doing so can bring a sense of peace to the individual facing the end of life as well as those closest
to them.

For answers to some of the most common questions you may have about managing affairs as the end of life approaches
click here

Checking Your Digital Footprint
Many older Americans are not aware of the full extent of their digital footprint. Having all appropriate information in one place is not only important to your proper digital management, but is extremely important for your family and your estate after you are gone or incapacitated.


Everyone needs to do the following: 

a.    List all of your accounts, logins, passwords and URL’s including email accounts.  Note: if you have more than one email account it is imperative that the appropriate email address be listed with each of your accounts for communication purposes.

b.    List social media Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc.

c.    List any sites you use to purchase or sell products and services like eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, Zappos, etc.)

d.    List all retailers where you have open accounts.

e.    List all business and service related on-line accounts like banking, utilities, cable, phone, Internet, etc.

f.     List all accounts in which you use automatic transfers or payments via a credit card or checking account withdrawal.


Discuss with your spouse or family as to whether you want these accounts closed or transferred when the time comes. List the contact person, if you have one, at each account, as well as passwords and log-in information and make sure to include all financial, banking and credit card sites as these are areas that have the biggest possibility of creating problems if you are not available to act.

Provide a copy of this information to your spouse/family and to your accountant and attorney along with instructions of how these matters should be handled.

Instruct the appropriate person (family member or friend) whether you wish some kind of message sent out via your social media sites including various alumni list-serves indicating your passing or incapacitation.

Be aware that each social media site has a different set of rules governing how to close your account and remove the profile of a deceased user. Some are relatively easy while others may require a copy of an obituary notice or even a death certificate. 

For additional information and many articles on what you should consider with respect to your digital footprint check out

For more information on who gets access to a deceased person’s digital accounts including state to state laws on access to digital accounts after death check Pew Research Center’s article.

digital demise



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