The average life expectancy for men in the United States is 77 years, and for women it is 81 years. It would be a good idea to prepare for that, and you'll need to take legal as well as financial steps. One of the biggest fears of older folks is that they will outlive their savings and retirement plans. In recent decades many workers lost life-long pension plans and were offered 401(k) plans by their employers as a substitute. The problem with 401(k) plans as is the problem with your savings is that you can outlive them. Traditional pensions, like Social Security, are supposed to keep paying for life -- but even some pension plans may not offer adequate payments, and there are fears that Social Security might not keep up with the cost of living or might even have to trim future benefits.
At the same time, you need a legal framework to keep your retirement money safe and you need to set up a safe system to protect, grow and pay out your money as you get older. Who will be making your financial decisions if you become incapable of making them yourself?
You'll also have to prepare for the day when you may need help to make the proper decisions about your own health care. Who will that person be and what direction do you want them to take?
These questions and these plans need a blueprint -- a plan -- that your loved ones and trusted caregivers can follow. And to relieve them of the burden of making difficult decisions, a game plan written by an attorney can relieve your relatives and caregivers of stress and make sure they are making the proper decisions.
Elder Law Attorney Martha Patterson says you should have these documents prepared and your family and future caregivers should know about them:
First, you need a living trust which is a legal document designed to plan to what happens when you don't die including your care and if you should become unable to make decisions on your own what decisions will be made for you. And the living trust continues with a plan for when you do die.
You also need a living will which is actually a legal health care document that is often called an advanced medical care directive. It says who will make decisions about your medical care when you can't make them yourself. For example, do you want to be kept alive with machines or not? What kind of medicines or treatments will you accept or won't accept? Perhaps you are opposed to receiving a blood transfusion.
You should have set up a financial power of attorney so a trusted person -- and let's emphasize trusted -- can access your bank and investment accounts to pay your bills and for nursing home care if needed.
Even though you may have a trust, you might also need a will that applies to assets not listed for your trust.
Another important document to have is a HIPPA release so that if you are ill your family can get access to your medical records and discuss in detail your medical care and treatment options.
Elder law attorney Martha Patterson offers a free consultation and $500 off any paid services when you contact her at her website www.elderlawmom.com.