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Update aging adults' estate plans to reflect their changing lives

The contents of a last will or estate plan reflect the unique dynamics within a family. They also represent the deepest wishes of the adults that make them. An individual may feel strongly about certain ideas when they first create an estate plan or last will, but life has a way of changing the plans people make.

As people age, their families and relationships may shift. From a falling out with one of their children to the death of a spouse, there are many circumstances that necessitate changes to a last will and estate plan. Deteriorating physical or mental health can also require adjustments, particularly in cases where an individual may eventually require nursing home care or Medicaid to cover their medical costs.

Helping older loved ones update their last will and estate plan as they age is as important as ensuring that they have a proper plan in the first place.

Changing medical conditions may change someone's wishes

A young parent with minor children at home may want medical professionals to do everything possible to resuscitate them and prolong their life in the event of an illness or accident. However, older adults may not feel so strongly about medical interventions.

Those with progressive, degenerative or terminal conditions may feel particularly strongly about not receiving heroic efforts at resuscitation as they age. If your loved one created their estate plan well before their current diagnosis, it is possible for their wishes to have changed since then.

Reviewing any advance medical directive that they have now is a good idea. Your loved one can change the terms to reflect their current wishes. They may also want to consider creating a medical power of attorney or a durable power of attorney, particularly if their condition increases the likelihood of a judicial declaration of incompetence in the future.

It may not be too late to protect some assets and their legacy

The most effective long-term care planning takes place years if not decades before someone needs nursing home assistance. Still, that doesn't mean that older adults can't still protect their intended legacy and the assets they want to leave behind for loved ones.

Medicaid has a 5-year look back at financial transactions, which means that if you take proactive steps as soon as your loved one receives a serious diagnosis, it may be possible to create a trust or transfer assets to individuals without incurring a penalty or preventing your loved one from securing the benefits they need in the future.

Outdated estate plans can be more of a hindrance than a help

If there are new members to your family or if previous heirs, administrators or beneficiaries have died, it is likely that your loved one should revisit the terms of their last well, estate plan or trust. The older someone gets and the more a medical condition progresses, the easier it will be for someone to claim that the testator lacked the mental capacity to make changes to their estate plan.

The sooner you and your loved one take action to update and modernize their wishes, the harder it will be for someone else to challenge those changes in the future.

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