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As you get older, protecting what you have earned becomes a priority. Many people wait to create a plan that protects assets and provides for family and friends left behind until later in life. Concerns about family who survive you, medical decision making, mental decline, government benefits, the ability to handle your own affairs, and a host of other issues can sometimes make the “twilight years” stressful and fraught with worry.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Often having a plan of action and understanding the different options that are available can calm fears of the unexpected or unknown.

Old+man+by+waterPlanning for incapacity or death is too easily put off until tomorrow, and I constantly meet heartbroken families who waited too long.

A very common scenario I see is a husband asking to get a power of attorney to act on his wife’s behalf, only the wife no longer has the capacity to give that power because of an accident, mental decline, Alzheimer’s, or dementia. They always say the same thing…. “But we are married, doesn’t that mean I can act for her?” The answer, unfortunately, is often, no.

There are significant financial and practical considerations. If you die without a will in Arizona, a state statute will dictate who will receive your property. If you haven’t planned for incapacity, your family may have to go to court to get a guardian appointed to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf. Consider the attorney’s fees that will now have to be paid by your family.

Wife+kissing+old+manI’ve had many clients say, “I don’t need a will or a trust. I don’t really have anything and my spouse will get everything anyway.” This could be true, but in many cases, it is not.

If you have children from a previous marriage and you die without a will, the children from the previous marriage will get half of the community property and your current spouse will get the other. Does  your current spouse know this?

Many people undervalue their estate and conclude that they will not have to pay estate taxes. Your taxable estate generally includes life insurance policy proceeds, retirement accounts, and real estate.

If you die after 2010, unless the laws change, every penny of your estate over $1 million passing to someone other than your spouse will be taxed at 55%. In many cases, a properly executed estate plan can result in a significant financial benefit.

Every day we gain cause to worry and cause for joy. The older you become the more you have of both. Let me help you focus on the joy by eliminating some of the worry.