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Estate Planning Mistakes You Can Fix Before They Get Expensive

Not having an estate plan in place, makes seniors vulnerable to financial elder abuse.

Are you among the 60% of Americans 60 years old and older who don’t have estate planning documents in place, or the 40% who understand how important it is to protect themselves and their families? If you’re in the bigger group, the time to address these matters is now.

CNBC’s recent article, “These costly estate planning mistakes can be fixed,” says that, when it comes to planning for your estate, the odds are you haven’t made all the provisions you should.

A new Wells Fargo survey found that four in ten senior Americans don’t have the important documents that will address financial and health matters, if they’re incapacitated or dying. Those gaps in financial planning have the potential to leave the elderly vulnerable to elder financial abuse. While 20% of Americans age 65 and up are victims of financial abuse, only one in 10 think it can happen to them. Consider these actions you can take now to reduce your financial vulnerability.

Store your documents in an accessible place. Your estate plan and other important documents should be stored in a secure but accessible location. There are programs that allow you to create and store your plans online. As a result, everything is in one place and accessible to family out-of-state.

Break down your to-do list into small items. Make a list of the items of your estate plan that need your attention and work your way down the list. The four key documents everyone should have in place are a will, a power of attorney for financial matters, an advance health care directive and a power of attorney for health care.

Update your plans regularly. One in six older Americans surveyed by Wells Fargo said their documents are out of date. Many, even the elderly, postpone these tasks because of a lack of urgency. Create a deadline for yourself and your family, for when you want to accomplish these tasks. Follow up when you receive prompts from your estate planning attorney and software (like Outlook) that says your plans need updating.

Talk about your wishes with your loved ones. About 72% of those surveyed by Wells Fargo indicated they believe their finances are a private matter. However, failing to discuss your money will make things harder for your family if you should suddenly—or even gradually, from dementia—be unable to manage your own financial affairs or make decisions. It’s smart to start these conversations when you’re in your 50s.

The simple truth is, putting an estate plan in place, having a will and updating both on a regular basis, will give you a surprising sense of peace. You’ll be more prepared, and your family will be better protected.

Reference: CNBC (May 10, 2018) “These costly estate planning mistakes can be fixed”

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