The appeal of living in a senior living community cannot be denied. There, you can enjoy the company of others who share your interests and hobbies. You can eat meals together and do not have to worry about things like home repairs.
While moving to a senior living community might seem like the perfect time to stop worrying about all the little things, there is at least one thing you want to consider. You need to review your will.
Often when people move to a senior living community, they downsize from their previous home, condo or apartment. This can mean specific items and property listed in the will is not owned anymore.
If your will gives the total value of all your possessions and property to your children in equal shares, this will not pose an issue. But let’s say you have designated a specific item for your daughter and different one for your son. If the item for your son was sold when you downsized, you should consider revising your will to give a different item to him.
While reviewing your will, you also will want to consider where you lived when the will was written versus where you live now. The law that governs the interpretation of the will is dictated by which state you live in when you die. Many people move several times in their life, especially in retirement. You may want to review your will with a local attorney to be sure your wishes can be followed in your current state of residence.
Though not part of your will, there also are several things you can do to make your executor’s job easier. The executor in your will is the person responsible for carrying out your wishes after you die. Meet with this person to discuss your will and your wishes. During the meeting, you may even want to tell the executor where you keep lists of important information. This can include contact information for the beneficiaries listed in the will, financial and non-financial asset lists, important documents like Social Security cards and password lists for any accounts. It also is wise to include a list of professionals you use, such as your lawyer, accountant and financial planner.
Safe Deposit Box?
Many times, you may consider storing important information like this in a safe deposit box. You may even put your will in a safe deposit box before you move into a senior living community. Safe deposit boxes can be great for keeping important items free from theft, fire damage or loss through misplacement. But it is important to know that when a person dies, his or her safe deposit box will remain locked until a probate court order allows an executor or another person access it. Therefore, you should consider storing your will with your attorney, executor or somewhere else safe that will be readily accessible after your death. You also can put your executor’s name on the safe deposit box as an owner and give him or her a key to solve this issue.
A will can contain all sorts of provisions and wishes. But you need to understand that wills are usually not accessed and read until after the funeral. So if you have provisions in your will regarding your funeral wishes, you should communicate these in another form.
Most people know, at least in a general sense, who will be in charge of planning their funeral. If you have specific requests, write them down and share the notes. You may even want to plan everything yourself with a local funeral director. Just be sure if you pre-pay for any services that you let your loved ones know so they do not pay for the same services elsewhere.
Similarly, if you wish to be an organ donor, you should tell any and all relevant parties when moving into a senior living community. This may need to be documented by signing a form, carrying a card or wearing a medical bracelet. Timing is usually very important to ensure a successful organ donation. If this wish is not discovered until the reading of your will, it is likely far too late.
Other documents to have in place.
Finally, when moving to a senior living community, the staff may ask if you have a living will or advance directive. This is not a traditional will. This is a document that answers questions regarding end-of-life decisions such as resuscitation, life support, etc. Through a living will or advance directive, you explain how you would like doctors to proceed if you are not well enough to tell them.
Keep in mind you also can choose to enact a durable healthcare power. This allows you to name a trusted individual to make the decisions regarding your care if you are unable to do so. Remember, though, that these documents expire at death and the will takes over as a guiding document at that point.
About the author: Patrick O’Brien is CEO and co-founder of executor.org, a free, online tool that helps executors manage their responsibilities and duties in this complex role. The tool includes a helpful step-by-step interactive guide for executors and invaluable tips on everything from planning a funeral and keeping beneficiaries happy to dealing with grief and managing estate assets.