When Craig Evans Carnick accompanied his wife of 46 years to a medical procedure recently, he got a bit of a surprise when he asked a nurse a question about her care. "She ignored me, then asked my wife if it was all right to talk with me," said Carnick, a financial planner in Colorado Springs, Colo. It was a small hiccup, but also a stark reminder about today's medical information disclosure laws.
This isn’t just a concern for spouses. With many adult children putting off marriage and with their elderly parents living longer, many people in the “Sandwich Generation” really aren’t ready to care for loved ones, warns the a recent Chicago Tribune article titled “Checklist for updating, organizing estate planning documents.”
The Tribune reports that a new survey of 1,000 adults for www.caring.com shows these startling figures:
- Roughly 55% said their parents have a will or trust document;
- 25% of people 65 and older said they don't know where their elderly parents keep their estate planning documents; and
- 44% don't know what's in those documents.
Those are some big numbers!
The survey officials commented that many respondents reported situations where parents passed away without leaving behind legal documents. This has led to some sad stories about people having money tied up in court and not being able to pay their parents' final bills and funeral costs.
In addition, the survey revealed that very few families have health care directives for adult children. It’s not just about the elderly parents, the article reminds us. This is a major issue for people with adult children who are away at school or living on their own as an unmarried adults. What happens if they get in an accident?"
The article offered these tips to keep in mind when working on these tasks:
- Take Five: No, don’t take a break! Estate planning attorneys suggest that you update your will, trusts, powers of attorney, and health care directives at least every five years or when a major life event happens, such as a new child or grandchild, moving, a new job, or divorce.
- Share the Secret: If you have estate planning documents, it's very important to share the information with those who will be helping you as you get older. For example, your physician needs a copy of your health care directives.
- Get It Together: Many folks use binders for keeping important documents with notes on financial account information and passwords. While this is a great idea, the binders are usually locked away for safe-keeping. Keep the documents in an electronic format that can be accessed by your representatives when needed.
Some estate-planning attorneys also recommend designating trusts as retirement account beneficiaries, even though the accounts already might contain beneficiary designations.
These are very tricky issues to tackle, so ask talk to an estate planning attorney before taking action.
Reference: Chicago Tribune (May 10, 2015) “Checklist for updating, organizing estate planning documents”