Today I want to discuss what are the goals for estate planning in the 21st century? It used to be that we were more concerned about who we left our assets to in estate planning than anything else, but the fact of the matter is as Americans, we are living much longer. Therefore, our estate planning goals have changed dramatically. Right now insurance companies are using life expectancy tables all the way up to age of 120 and there are some projections that, particularly people today who are in their 20s, may live to – many of them may live to see those life expectancy tables realized. The bottom line is, we’re living longer so the number one goal of estate planning in the 21st century is to provide for a longer life. Yes, we still have to be concerned about what happens to our assets when we die, but now we have to worry about whether our assets and income will last for the rest of our lengthy lives.
What are the things that can negatively impact assets lasting? Well, first of all, in retirement it used to be thought that expenses living would go down, but since our clients and most Americans are living to be longer, they’re also healthier longer and, even in retirement, are more active. Therefore, they’re spending more money. They’re traveling and their daily expenses are not necessarily going down because they’re active.
Number two, as we live to be longer or have longer lives, the incidences of incapacity are increasing because the elements of incapacity of course apply to the older clients – Alzheimer’s, dementia, other physical ailments that show up later in life. The cost of long-term care, which we are now facing in greater numbers, can also have a negative impact on an estate, so we want to make sure that the number one goal is to provide for a longer life.
Now, the other goals of estate planning are pretty consistent with what they’ve always been. I always tell clients that after we’ve taken care of your long life, we want to make sure that you avoid unnecessary legal procedures, that you plan to avoid unnecessary taxes on the estate – and that could be both income taxes and federal estate taxes. I like to say that we plan to avoid problems that we hope don’t occur. We want to make certain that at all times the persons that you have confidence in – the persons that you believe will have your best interest at heart – are there to make decisions for you at the time of need and there is no conflict. Then lastly, yes, let’s determine who will receive your assets at the time of death, but only after we’ve taken care of the other issues.
Remember, plan for a long life. Plan to avoid unnecessary legal expenditures. Plan to avoid unnecessary taxes and plan to avoid conflict.
I hope this has been helpful. Thank you.