The ‘aging checklist’: What is it and why every retiree needs one

10 Minute Read

Several times a year, a client who is caring for an aging parent will confide in me, “I told my kids if I’m ever in that state, they should just shoot me.” The comments are made in jest (usually), but there is a strong element of truth to it. Dealing with an aging family member can be very difficult. It’s hard on the person who is losing control and, oftentimes, even more difficult on their family. While many folks want a quick fix to deal with aging, practically, the best approach is to plan ahead.

According to AARP, 30 million households are providing care for an adult over the age of 50. That number is expected to double over the next 25 years as people continue to live longer. Given these realities, one important consideration I recommend to all my clients approaching retirement is to craft an “Aging Checklist” to complement their retirement and estate plan. This comprehensive checklist can save a tremendous amount of time and headache when caring for a loved one.

The best time to start crafting an “Aging Checklist” is several years before retirement. This type of coordination can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing on the family. Taking small steps over the course of the last few years of one’s career allows for prudent decision making without the pressure of a time crunch.

Below is a list of points to work through with your financial advisor, accountant, attorney and family members to help with the transition process.


Estate Planning Documents:

  • Include the contact information for your estate and elder care planning attorney.
  • Do you have a will or estate plan and is it current with your wishes?
  • Do you have a current durable power of attorney for finance?
  • Do you have a current durable power of attorney for healthcare?
  • Does your healthcare power of attorney contain a healthcare directive that spells out wishes for life-prolonging care?
  • Were trusts set up for estate/long-term care planning purposes? If so, are they up to date and do you have a copy of the trusts? Who are the trustees? Were the trusts funded?

Planning Tip: Set up a time to meet with your attorney, trustees, and any relevant family members to get the above items clarified and updated.

 

Finances:

  • Include the contact information for all your financial advisors.
  • Make a list of all accounts and where they are held.
  • Consider consolidating all investment accounts to one firm for simplicity.
  • Consolidate all old 401(k) accounts where appropriate.
  • Evaluate any pensions you may have and your options.
  • Review investments and make sure they are appropriate for someone within retirement.
  • Review Social Security benefits and automate payment where possible.
  • Make sure all beneficiary designations are up to date (e.g. remove ex-spouses).
  • Streamline bill paying and income to come out/go into accounts electronically.

Planning Tip: Set up a time to meet with your financial advisor several years before retirement. Speak with him/her regularly for the next few years to make sure your finances are organized and you are in a position to fund your lifestyle as you age. If you are not on track, be sure to discuss the appropriate financial planning and lifestyle modifications that are required.

 

Insurance:

  • Include the contact information for your insurance advisors.
  • Make a list of all insurance policies (e.g. life, health, long-term care, etc.) with all relevant information.
  • Review homeowners, auto and umbrella liability insurance to make sure they are adequate, appropriate and up to date.
  • Review health insurance coverage and consider whether it would be appropriate to add a Medigap policy to pay for costs not covered by Medicare.

Planning Tip: Is there any insurance that you no longer need once retired or change living arrangements (e.g. Term insurance, homeowners, etc.)? Is there other insurance that you now need to get or increase as you approach retirement (e.g. long-term care)?

 

Housing:

  • Is your current housing situation suitable for an elderly person?
  • Should you downsize? If so, when is the right time to do this?
  • Do any changes or modifications need to be made to the house?
  • Have plans been made in the event of illness, disability or death of a spouse?
  • Is there money available to pay for those eventualities (e.g. long-term care insurance or savings)?
  • Where is the deed to your house?

Planning Tip: Is relocating a consideration? Be sure to carefully consider this decision from both a social and financial planning perspective.

 

Health:

  • Make a list of all your doctors as well as any medications.
  • Help coordinate benefits between care providers and insurance companies.

Planning Tip: From a mental health perspective, make sure that you are retiring to something and not from something. Retirees are advised to pursue activities that involve daily structure, relationship building, and working towards a goal to keep mentally sharp and motivated. Unfortunately, hobbies don’t always fit those requirements.

 

Technology:

  • Make a list of all online login information for banking, trading, and investing accounts.
  • Make a list of social media accounts and credentials.
  • What services are being used to store data on the cloud, what are the login credentials, and what is located where?

Planning Tip: Begin streamlining/consolidating what services you use. It can be cumbersome for family members to keep track of multiple account login credentials and storage services that serve similar functions.

 

Business:

  • If you own a business, is there a well-defined succession plan?

Planning Tip: It’s best to start the succession planning process early by grooming a successor, getting the appropriate legal documents and insurance in place, and setting expectations for all those who are involved in the business.

 

Personal:

  • List all relevant information that may be needed for a loved one who needs to act on your behalf. This includes date of birth, Social Security Number, mother’s maiden name, login credentials. (Note: This simple bullet point will saves hours of time and lots of headaches.)
  • Personal memorabilia: Where are they located and who gets what?
  • When to stop driving? List specific criteria, in writing, that would result in giving up your license (e.g. regularly forget to put on turning signal, eye sight getting worse, frequent fender benders, etc.). For many people, this is a big step in giving up one’s independence. Deciding years ahead of time on terms for when it makes sense for you to stop driving will make the transition a bit more manageable.
  • Which family member or close friend will be in charge of handling various tasks? Specify in writing so there is no confusion on everyone’s role when the time comes to step in. (i.e. Who handles financial, legal, insurance, or personal tasks?)
  • Burial and funeral information: Be specific on how you want this handled and how it will be paid for.
  • Does religion impact any of the above planning? If so, how should it be handled?
  • Any personal requests?

Planning Tip: Dispose of personal knickknacks by throwing them out or gifting them to friends/family through the course of your early retirement. Remember, it’s your stuff and you should deal with it. There is no need to burden your family with cleaning up your things once you pass away.

 

It’s important to note that the above list is just a sample of some issues that many retirees face. Not every issue on this list is applicable to every individual, and, conversely, there are always unique issues facing each family. The key is to work through a checklist with all of your respective advisors and family members, have a conversation about it, and put a written plan in place. At the end of the day, when a loved one prepares their wishes well before they become physically or mentally impaired, it makes aging a much more manageable experience for everyone involved.

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The contents in this article are being provided for educational and informational purposes only. The information and comments are not the views or opinions of Union Bank, its subsidiaries or affiliates.

 

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