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Wealth Planning for Shortened Life Expectancies and Aging Family Members

Millions of Americans have shortened life expectancies due to illness. Expressing wishes and needs regarding your person and property can help bring peace of mind.

Couple looking out from a deck overlooking the ocean

Each year, tens of thousands of Americans are diagnosed with a chronic disease. It’s been estimated that more than 130 million Americans are afflicted with some type of long-term persistent illness.1 Studies show nearly one in four of these people live with more than one disease and the number of people suffering from multiple diseases increases significantly starting at age 65.2 Not all of these diseases are life-threatening, but, in many cases, these afflictions will have the unfortunate effect of shortening the life spans of these individuals.

If you or a loved one has received unsettling health news, we strongly encourage you to accelerate discussions around your medical care preferences, end-of-life wishes and overall estate plan. Many of these conversations, no doubt, will be difficult and perhaps even argumentative, as they are likely to be emotionally charged. But they can help alleviate the fear and misunderstanding families often experience when dealing with a loved one’s mortality. More importantly, they can provide comfort to the individual by ensuring everyone understands his or her wishes regarding his or her person and property.

Sharing your thoughts about your mortality—your hopes and your fears—with friends and loved ones serves many purposes. This process can help you narrow your focus, re-evaluate what’s really important to you, prioritize your goals and illuminate whether you have the right people and mechanisms in place for when the time of need comes. It can provide you and your family with peace of mind that your wishes and needs will be taken care of. It can deepen personal relationships, help mend those that might have gone awry and provide closure and acceptance. It can be used to share memories and to pass on wisdom and ethical ideologies. Perhaps most importantly, it can help you take stock of your life and become more purposeful going forward so you can live life to the fullest.

Remember, medical treatment and end-of-life goals that are legal in nature should always be memorialized in written documents and signed and witnessed according to your state’s laws. Most of these documents (e.g., last will and testament, revocable trust, powers of attorney) will be “revocable,” meaning they can be changed at any time as long as you have the legal capacity to do so.

This paper contains examples of strategies you could implement. Of course, you should consult with your tax professional and estate attorney to determine which type of strategy might be right for you.

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