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Estate planning thrives on early decisions and focused goals

Many California residents become too preoccupied with their daily activities and struggles to slow down and think about planning for the future and into old age. Of course, they can't be blamed for avoiding estate planning, which does, after all, deal with death and a host of associated issues. There is something to be said, however, for preparing for the needs of retirement and beyond now, while one is healthy and capable of pre-arranging his/her wishes for the future. That would be a far better approach than finding oneself in the last stages of life with only hardship and adversity at hand.

The best way to get estate planning off the starting block is to consult with an estate planning attorney. In that setting, all of the assets of the individual or married couple can be identified, reviewed and discussed. The people in line as beneficiaries can be established along with one's pick of personal representative for the estate and trustees of any trusts to set up. The all-important individual to be appointed as agent in the durable power of attorney can also be determined.

All of the necessary documents can be created in cooperation with the attorney, along with any accountants and financial advisers necessary to establishing the most effective, cost-productive plan available. Getting into the subject of planning for beyond retirement, when nursing homes and other health care options may become necessary, is a critically important process. Most people do not want to find themselves wiped out financially when they most need to be supported and comfortable.

Nonetheless, planning for the high cost of nursing homes and even home health care is daunting and difficult to achieve for most people without advanced planning. Issues of long-term insurance and the possible need for Medicaid planning are important to resolve early to prevent hardship in the waning years of life. A Medicaid asset protection trust compatible with California law may be attractive, or other assets may be set aside to finance future possibilities. One must simply make the decision to go ahead and engage in the estate planning process.

Source:, "Bonnie Kraham: Guiding principles of an elder-law estate plan", Bonnie Kraham, Sept. 14, 2017

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