“ It ’ s not estate improvising ; it ’ s estate planning .”
Jim Ward is a long-time Gilroy resident who raised both of his children in Gilroy and was active in the community for years . He left us for several years while he went to law school in New England and then obtained a graduate law degree in Estate Planning at the University of Miami . Jim worked as an estate planning and elder law attorney in Florida , and recently returned to Gilroy to open his own law firm focusing on both estate planning and elder law .
“ Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now .”
Does your family really know what you want ? You may be undecided about what treatment you want when you ’ re ill or how to transfer your estate when you pass away , … and your family may even want something different than what you want . So maybe you should put your wishes in writing in a legally valid document to let everyone know .
All too often , when it comes to estate planning issues , spouses disagree with each other and the adult children disagree with their parents . Putting off the decision doesn ’ t make it easier , and it rarely gets solved by waiting . Issues such as whether you want burial or cremation , or whether you want to use a living will , or who will make your health care decisions , are all issues that need to be addressed . If you have minor children , do you have a valid will that appoints guardians for them if the need arises ?
When people are faced with making the formal decision of how to split their remaining assets among their family members , many people freeze up . They may make a decision , but then not be willing to sign it until a few weeks have passed and they ’ ve reached the point where they know that they simply have to bite the bullet and get it done .
The California Legislature has prepared a plan for each of us in case we don ’ t have a valid plan of our own . If you want to make your own decisions , however , you need to have your own set of documents prepared according to your own wishes . If you don ’ t act , the rules of the State of California will govern .
Most people take time to plan for a dinner party or their vacation , but they put off estate planning or long-term care planning . Most people prefer to not think about how they will be cared for as they advance in age , and they simply think that “ it will all work out .” When it comes to long-term care planning , including finding the appropriate care and figuring out how to pay for it , those who
— Alan Lakein , Time Management Expert
fail to plan are clearly the ones who risk losing the most .
As an estate planning and elder law attorney , I frequently see people who have waited too long to do their planning . It ’ s frustrating for their families , and frustrating for me as well when I know that something could have been done to better protect the person and the family if someone had only taken the appropriate action a bit sooner . Nobody ever plans to have a stroke or develop dementia , but it happens unexpectedly to many of us . You need to plan for that possibility .
Insurance for long-term care is an everchanging area . Many companies that offered great policies before are no longer offering long term care insurance , and new companies are offering more conservative plans . If you ’ re at an age where long-term care insurance is still affordable for you , you should look into it . If it isn ’ t an option for you , then you should meet with an elder law attorney to understand other options that you may have . Waiting is rarely a good option .
The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 ( known as DRA 2005 ) went into effect at the beginning of 2006 . One of the reasons for the act was to make it more difficult for seniors to receive government assistance for care in a skilled nursing facility or supplemental care at home . Every state except California has already adopted the new rules . California still has a lot of elder law planning flexibility today , but that will change soon . Once California adopts those rules , people who haven ’ t planned in advance will pay an even greater price for waiting .
Proper planning , whether for estate planning , elder considerations , or Medi-Cal planning , can frequently provide for a better life for the senior , their spouse , and their heirs . It isn ’ t something to take lightly or put off with the idea that “ things will work out ” on their own .
Even if you already did some planning several years ago , maybe it ’ s time to pull out those old documents , dust them off , and see if they still reflect your wishes .