Older Americans Month - Connect, Create, Contribute!
In 1963, President Kennedy declared May to be Senior Citizens month celebrating the contributions our senior citizens made to our country, in particular our veterans who defended our great nation. Sadly, at that time, many of our seniors were living in poverty with very little assistance from programs to meet their needs. Each president has followed President Kennedy’s lead, with President Carter changing the name in 1980 to Older Americans Month. This year’s theme of Older Americans Month is “Connect, Create, Contribute.”
Personally, I love this theme because retirees greatly benefit from connecting with family and friends, developing and enriching new hobbies, and volunteering in the community. The benefit extends beyond seniors to the communities they influence while connecting, creating and contributing. Likewise, estate planning and even elder law are also not just beneficial for older adults, but are needed for adults of every age. Planning is beneficial for adults of every age because the potential for any of us or one of our loved ones to suffer from an unexpected accident or illness is not age dependent. Estate planning should also be approached for adults of every age with a focus on that person’s stage in life, then updated at various stages of adulthood such as marriage, beginning a family, divorce, retirement and health related issues.
So while we celebrate our “older Americans”, we should also remove the stigma that estate planning, and even elder law, are just for older folks. Rather, estate planning is for people who are smart enough to prepare for their future. We take preventative measures in other aspects of our lives by eating right and exercising. We also purchase insurance for our home, automobiles, and our health just to prepare for our futures. This is no different!
When you decide to take that first step, make sure you are getting up-to-date advice and documents. Estate planning and elder law are very specialized areas of law. Ask your attorney how often he or she takes continuing education courses in wills, trusts, nursing home Medicaid and disability planning. You should also inquire about what percent of his or her practice is in this area of law. Ask for examples of how they successfully assisted clients through long-term disabilities or illnesses. Another important consideration is who their typical client may be because planning is often approached differently for a high net worth client versus somebody with a more modest estate.
At your initial consultation, your attorney should ask a lot of questions, he or she will probably even request you to submit some basic information in advance of your meeting regarding your family, assets and income. While you may be a little uncomfortable sharing certain information, it is very important for you to be honest with your attorney. Remember this private information is confidential. And whatever is making you a little uncomfortable probably should be addressed in your estate plan. Finally, make sure your relationship with your elder law attorney is a good fit for your circumstances and the attorney you choose can help you achieve your goals.
If you are an older American, we celebrate you and your contributions to our country and if you are not quite yet an older American, make sure you let your favorite older American know how much you appreciate them!