Estate Planning is like life. It is continually evolving.
Let’s take a trip to 1980:
- Life expectancy in 1980 was 74. (Now 78 (80 for women)).
- Estate Taxes were paid on estate of over $161,000 It was $600,000 for ten years from 1987-1997. It is now $5 million!
- Probate was a real concern since, unlike today, many assets (especially stocks and bonds) could not be tilted with a beneficiary or “payable on death” and probate fees and costs could run into the thousands.
- Durable Powers of Attorneys were not routinely used until the first major legislation enacted in 1995.
- Health Care Surrogates came into being in1998.Before that we had just a Living Will. The modern living will was enacted in 1992. Health Care Surrogates were enacted in 1998 with major changes in 2001 and 2005.
- 1 out of 2 Americans over 85 has Alzheimer’s disease. The rate has tripled since 1980.
Elder Law grew out of the need to bridge traditional estate planning with real world needs. And in the real world the biggest financial crisis facing Middle Americans are the cost of long term care needs. Planning on how you will leave your estate is worthless if there is not estate to leave because it was eaten up in the last years of our life.
Since traditional estate planning attorneys often do not concentrate on preparing for long term care needs, we are confronted with “stale” estate plans that are not only ill suited for the needs of the client but can actually be extremely problematic. (We have had to go to court many times to “reform” documents of deceased spouses.)
The average “long goodbye” for an Alzheimer’s patient is 10 years. The human toll and the financial costs are staggering. Preparing for both of these inevitabilities can save on both the human and financial tolls.
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