Moving to a Senior Living Community? It’s Time to Revisit Your Will.
It’s hard to deny the appeal of moving to a senior living community. There, you can enjoy the company of others, sharing in hobbies, game nights, and prepared meals, all without having to worry about things like home repairs and the need for medical care.
Before entering a senior living community, however, you’ll want to make sure that all of your ducks are in a row. In addition to the obvious (moving furniture, donating clothes, etc.), you’ll want to make sure that your will is in order.
Why Draft a Will
If you happen to be one of the 6 in 10 adults who do not have a will or living trust, allow me to convince you. Having a will allows you to give a person, likely a loved one, sole control over the distribution of your assets following your passing. With an expertly drafted will in place, you can avoid the costly and complicated process of determining the allocation of everything that once belonged to you, a process that varies based on the state in which you reside.
Wills Made Easy: If the prospect of drafting a will sounds daunting, then think again. With online services like Rocket Lawyer, you can both quickly and affordably draft documents such as living wills, child care authorizations, and last will and testaments.
The Different Types of Wills
Here’s a look at some of the common forms of wills.
A self-proving will is the most commonly used form of a will. This document details what should be with a person’s belongings and assets following their passing. In most states, all that’s required is for this document to be prepared, signed, and witnessed. Some states require this document to be notarized. Additionally, it’s always helpful to seek legal advice when preparing these documents to ensure the validity and comprehensive nature of your will.
Designed for two people, joint wills are a great solution for spouses. This type of will, drafted with two parties in mind, ensures that should one pass, everything will be left to the other. It also denotes who will inherit their assets once the second person passes away. Depending on your preference, this document can be designed so that the surviving partner may or may not make changes in the wake of the first party’s death.
Commonly referred to as an advanced directive, a living will is a written document that notes one’s wishes for continued healthcare in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated, terminally ill, or otherwise unable to properly communicate their preferences.
It’s important to note, however, that this type of will does not address the issue of allocating assets after death. A living will is designed exclusively for medical directives during your lifetime.
Holographic wills are similar to self-proving wills in that they delineate the distribution of assets in the wake of a death. The main difference, however, is that holographic wills are written and signed by the individual absent of witnesses. Many states don’t recognize holographic wills as legally binding, so be sure to check with your local laws before relying on this type of document.
As the morbid name implies, a deathbed will is one made (often hastily) when a person realizes they are close to death. While these can sometimes work as a last ditch resort, I’d advise you to steer against this type of will and err on the side of one of the previous documents. Since these wills are made when a person is under great stress and or pain, it’s easy for your mental acuity to be questioned in court.
Reviewing and Revising Your Will
Before you move to a senior living community, you should absolutely take another look at your will. Often, when people move to one of these communities, they downsize from their previous home, which can mean specific items and property listed in the will are no longer owned.
If your will gives the total value of all your possessions and property to your children, this will likely pose no issues; however, let’s say you have designated a specific item for a child (for example, a home or car). If this item was sold when you downsized, then you will need to revise your will to account for this change.
While reviewing your will, you’ll also want to consider where you live when the will was written compared to where you live now. The law that governs the interpretation of the will is dictated by the state in which you live at the time of your passing. Many people move several times throughout their life, especially during retirement. Finding a local attorney can help ensure that your wishes will be executed 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 for Wills
Once you’ve got your will all squared away, you should consider putting it in a safe deposit box, which can protect the document from theft, fire damage, or misplacement. When a person passes away, his or her safe deposit box will remain locked until a probate court order allows an executor to 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 can also put your executor’s name on the safe deposit box as an owner and give him a key to solve this issue.
FYI: Since wills are usually not accessed and read until after the funeral, you should communicate any wishes regarding your post-mortem rituals via another form.
Wills and Funeral Planning
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 with your loved ones. Alternatively, you may even wish to plan everything yourself with a local funeral director. Just be sure that if you pre-pay for any services that you let keep your loved ones in the loop so that they can properly carry out your wishes.
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.
Additional Documents To Have in Place
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; rather, it’s a document that answers questions regarding end-of-life decisions such as resuscitation, life support, burial, 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 that 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 this point.
Making the shift to a senior living community is a smart move to help you age safely and happily; however, before you do so, it’s always a good idea to make sure your will is in order. The golden years can be some of your happiest times with proper planning.