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What the aging process tells us about estate planning

As you age, you may begin to realize that you can't complete some activities with the same ease as you could when you were younger. While aches and pains are a normal, if unwelcome, part of the aging process, the obstacles they present can be overcome with the right foresight. What does this mean for the estate planning process?

According to the AARP, approximately 60 percent of Americans do not have a will or an estate plan. Many people are able to live their daily lives on their terms as they age, but what happens when you cannot voice your wishes in a major life decision like seeking medical or nursing home care? Having an estate plan in place can help you find an answer to this question that many people leave unresolved.

While aging will undoubtedly happen with or without an estate plan, its effects can be factored into a long-term care plan, medical directive or power of attorney. Each one of these elements can be included in a larger estate plan for both you and your spouse.

How to factor aging into the estate plan

We all value our independence as we age. A new study conducted by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reveals the lifestyle factors that allow men to keep their independence well into their eighties.

According to the Journal, the most consistent factors among men who were able to live life on their own with little assistance include:

  • Eating a Mediterranean-style diet.
  • Avoiding smoking.
  • Having a waistline less than 40 inches in diameter.

Choosing a lifestyle focused on longevity takes careful planning and discipline on a daily basis. Likewise, living a life according to your wishes after you are no longer able to maintain your independence requires a plan in writing. This process deserves its due diligence by seeking the help of an estate planning attorney.

Medical care as part of an estate plan

Just like there are reliable lifestyle choices that can increase your chances of longevity, there are steadfast care options available to you in an estate plan. Two of the most popular options that can be used separately or in conjunction with one another include:

  • Living will: This document outlines how you want to be cared for when you seek medical treatment or end-of-life care options. Without a living will, your loved ones may be unsure of what you would think is best for yourself in certain situations. You can consult with your doctor, and then put it in writing with an estate planning attorney.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: This specifies who you want to make decisions on your behalf. This person should also understand the wishes of your estate plan and living will.

Understanding both the daily and long-term decisions of our health and wellness can help you maintain your personal sense of independence even as you seek medical care.

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