Right now, huge numbers of people are coming face to face with their own mortality, and realizing they need to plan for the worst. This goes not just for those in the “senior” category, but for all of us, no matter our age. We are facing the reality of our mortality, and many of us are doing it courageously by taking this as an opportunity to learn what we need to do for the people we love.

Recently I heard a tragic story from a colleague whose client lost her fiancé to COVID-19. Because she wasn’t listed on her fiancé’s health directive and HIPAA waiver, she could not get anyone to update her on his condition once he entered the hospital.

Naturally, she didn’t give up trying, and eventually someone told her that he wasn’t in the ICU anymore. She was enormously relieved, but when she hadn’t heard anything else by the next day, she called again for news. Finally, after being transferred several times, she learned that the reason her fiancé wasn’t in the ICU was because he was in the morgue. He’d passed away the day before, and no one had told her. Heartbreaking.

Nobody expects something like this to happen, especially to people who are healthy and making plans for their own futures. But sometimes the worst does happen, and if it does, you want the people you love to be able to grieve properly, without leaving them with a mess of confusion on top of it all.

Now, think about your own situation. What will happen to your loved ones, and the assets you’ll leave behind, if you become sick or die?

Without a doubt, you’d want to ensure certain people in your life are informed if you have to go to the hospital and kept up to date on your condition while you are there. You’d also probably want to avoid them having to go through a drawn-out court process to handle your estate after your death or save them from the fate of not being able to access your assets if you are hospitalized. This article is all about you having the tools you need to make sure everything is in place to do the right thing for the people you love, just in case something happens to you.

Covering the Bases
First, you need to have a worst-case scenario conversation with your family. A lot of people try to avoid conversations about death, but the fact is, we will all die. It’s better to face that with those we love so that when the time comes, we will be as ready as we can be, and so will they.

Create an Asset Inventory
This is something you can get started on right now, by yourself, without the help of a lawyer. It is a great resource to leave for your loved ones so they know where to find everything that is important to you, and will be important to them, if something happens to you.

First, get out your calendar and schedule an appointment with yourself. Set aside an hour or so to put all your asset information in one place (we use a spreadsheet when we do this for clients): real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, stocks, bonds, business interests, etc.

Update Your Health Care Directive
This is extremely important if you want your loved ones to avoid the tragic situation my colleague’s client found herself in. Do NOT delay reviewing and updating these documents.

Your Health Care Directive should have three parts:

  • A Living Will/ Medical Directive, which states how you want decisions to be made for you.
  • A Medical Power of Attorney, which states who should make these decisions if you can’t make them yourself.
  • A HIPAA Release that allows medical professionals to disclose information to your Medical Power of Attorney/Agent.

Name Legal Guardians for Your Kids
A very important thing for all parents of minor children to do is name legal guardians for your children. Think about what would happen to them right now if something were to happen to you, for both the long term and the immediate future. This is the single most important thing parents of minor children should do because it would have the greatest impact on – or leave the biggest hole for – our minor children if something happens to us.

Going Beyond Just the Basics
The goal in setting up an estate plan is, ultimately, to keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. To do that, you must make the right decisions during the planning process, retitle assets so they are protected by your plan, and ensure your plan stays up to date for the rest of your life.

Estate planning is all about merging your family dynamics, assets (both material and non-material), and the law into a cohesive plan which accomplishes all that you really want to do for the people you love.

If you are ready to face your mortality courageously and want to ensure your family is protected and provided for no matter what, don’t wait. Get the help of a professional (someone who’s providing virtual planning sessions) and get started now.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

As you already know, the COVID-19 pandemic means there’s no more “business as usual”. So don’t just hope you can survive until things return to normal. Strategize, now, on how you can take what control is in your sphere of influence. Once you have attended to your (and your parents’) immediate needs, it will be time to consider more long-term plans.

In this time of stress and chaos, your parents may be resistant to talking about estate planning. It may feel too pessimistic to plan for the worst amid a scary situation. However, that’s exactly why it’s important right now to do so. Plus, since hopefully you are staying inside, you may have the time to dedicate to getting these tasks taken care of.

Here are actions you can, and should, take to ensure you and your family are fully protected legally.

Update Your Health Care Documents

Above all, you first need to ensure that both you and your parents have your health care documents in order. This will be an invaluable reference point for those who are assisting you, whether they be friends, family, or medical professionals.

There are three important and distinct documents you should have in place: Your advanced directive, HIPAA waiver, and living will. They are separate documents but all work together. Think of them like the legs of a stool. If just one is missing or defective, the stool will fall – with you in it!

Your advanced directive identifies and gives legal authority to whom you would like to make your medical decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. Many people think spouses automatically have this legal authority and therefore don’t need this type of document for each other. That is a mistaken belief which can cost married couples substantial time, money, and anguish when a medical emergency arises.

A HIPAA waiver is important because even though your advanced directive gives authority to someone of your choosing to make medical decisions for you, privacy laws will prevent your doctor from sharing your medical information with that person. I see a lot of advanced directives which include a HIPAA section, but this is not legally sound and often fails. For starters, the privacy laws mandate the HIPAA waiver be written in a certain font style and size. Trust me on this. You want your HIPAA waiver to be a standalone document.

Your living will is different from your last will and testament. While a last will deals with the decisions to be made after death, a living will pertains to decisions which are to be made while you are still alive. This is where you will provide guidance on when you would want to be placed on life support, removed from life support, whether you want to donate your organs, etc.

Even if you have already created your medical directives, I urge you to take out any existing documents now and review them. Have your circumstances changed? Do you have additions to make? Encourage your parents to do the same thing, and to communicate with you about what their documents say. If you are unsure whether your health care documents are in ship-shape, call us, and we’ll be happy to review them for you.

Ensure Your Estate Plan is Up to Date and In Order

Your healthcare documents are an important start, but you should also review (or create) powers of attorney, a last will, and perhaps even a living trust. Remember that it’s never an inappropriate time to plan. Getting this in order will provide you and your loved ones peace of mind. And we’re here to support you, virtually now, as well. We can take care of you, and your family, fully online. Call us, we’re here.

 Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

I’m dealing with working from home, managing my business and my team remotely, operating in shifts with my wife to take care of my children during the day, homeschool them, all while keeping a nervous eye on our stockpile of toilet paper. But perhaps my biggest challenge is feeling like my parents and in-laws are taking COVID-19 as seriously as I wish they would.

As of March 25th, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the United States was 54,453 cases across the United States with 737 confirmed deaths from the virus. And these numbers are still rising exponentially. 

When we first became aware of the novel coronavirus, there were several TV pundits and other authority figures saying that the virus was just another version of the flu. But in other parts of the world, we’ve seen COVID-19 overwhelm healthcare systems in a way the flu virus just hasn’t.

It seems, though, that many people of the older generation may still not be taking this seriously. And hey, they are the most battle tested of all of us. They’ve seen it all and survived it all and aren’t generally the types to give in to panic and stress. 

That said, they are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. And even with the stay at home order in place, I still feel like my parents are taking too many unnecessary risks. Here’s how I’m trying to express my concerns to them:

  1. Listening to them and determining the worries they have.
    I want to know what they have heard, what they are frustrated about, and what they are skeptical about. Everyone is frustrated with lines at the grocery store, toilet paper hoarding, and the hysteria of the crowds around them. I’m sure my parents do not want to feel like they are one of “those people.” I know I don’t. So I’m just trying to assure them that taking some precautions, especially staying home, is completely reasonable and can be done in a non-panicked way. I’m also trying to support them to make alternative arrangements during this time so they don’t have to go out.
  2. Emphasizing the risk in practical terms.
    I’m sharing articles and news with them that state the facts, soberly, like this one. My parents are bright and already have a good understanding about how viruses spread in general and they already know the basics of how important it is for them to wash their hands. But I want to ensure that is at the top of mind for them every day right now.
  3. Showing them I’m taking it seriously.
    I’m not getting together with my parents unless absolutely necessary, and when I do, I’m wearing a mask and keeping my distance as much as possible. I also shared the video created by Max Brooks, son of legendary comedian Mel Brooks, with them. Max created a PSA to convince younger people to be cognizant of how they might spread the virus to people who are the most vulnerable to it. It presents the situation in a succinct, somewhat lighthearted way. 

If you’re experiencing something similar with your loved ones, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Together, we can get through this. Let’s make sure our parents come through this with us.

Be well and stay safe.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Do your parents have an estate plan? Is it up to date? No matter how rich or poor you or your parents are, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to be asking these and several other questions. When your parents become incapacitated or die, their affairs will become your responsibility, and it will be impossible to ask them to clarify anything. So, if you do not know whether they have estate planning in place to help you best support them, read on.  

The Best-Case Scenario

In a best-case scenario, your parents have an updated estate plan, and they’ve walked you through it. They have provided an inventory of their assets that’s easy for you to find listing out everything they own and how it’s titled. Ideally, the plan also includes directions on how to handle their non-monetary assets, and a video, audio recording or written stories that pass on their values, insights and experience. On top of all that, it’s best if they’ve introduced you to the lawyer who set it all up, so you know who to turn to when the time comes.

Less-Than-Ideal Scenarios

If that’s not the case, you could have some holes to fill. If they’ve not done any planning at all, now is the time to encourage them to get it done and support them in any way you can. If they already have a completed plan, it’s likely that it has been sitting on their shelf or in a drawer for years, not updated, with no inventory of their assets and no way to capture and pass on their intangible assets. Even worse, their lawyer could have been using outdated systems that are no longer recognized, which can lead to trouble down the road.

It’s also possible that if they’ve never updated their estate plan, it no longer tracks with their current assets, and may even require complex actions that are no longer necessary upon their death. Worst of all, you may have no idea what your parents own or how to find their assets, and at their incapacity or death you’ll be left with a mess, even though your parents had good intentions and thought their planning was handled.

The Worst-Case Scenario

In a worst-case scenario (which we see more frequently than we’d like), your parents may have worked with someone who exerted undue influence over their decisions. This person may have led them to write something into their plan that they either didn’t really want to or wouldn’t otherwise have chosen if they understood all their options.  

Either way, it’s critical for you to know who your parents have worked with to create their estate plan, and how and why they made the choices they did. If you aren’t in the know, now is the time to find out. 

If your parents are already discussing these matters but have not yet included you, you can ask them to schedule a family meeting with their existing attorney. On your parents’ request, that attorney should look forward to walking you through your parents’ planning, the choices they made, and how you will be impacted in the event of their incapacity or death.

You want to develop a relationship with their estate planning attorney now. This advisor can be one of the most important supporters of you and your parents during your time of need. It’s a relationship you will want to establish before you need it, so you won’t be scrambling during a time of crisis.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

While it’s still hard to tell how the Coronavirus will impact us in the long term, it’s become a subject that’s impossible to ignore. While some are advocating we prepare to be quarantined, potentially for months, others are saying the virus is nothing more than a common cold. The World Health Organization takes a more middle-of-the-road approach, advising we take precautions without becoming alarmed.

My approach, as always, is to empower you to make informed decisions for you and your family. Here are some resources to stay up to date on the virus  so you can make decisions based in fact as you work to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.

For your reference, here’s a link where you can track infection and death rates over time. As you can see, the numbers are increasing daily. Most of the people who die from coronavirus are over the age of 60, and people who have chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes have a 5–10% higher chance of dying from it.

As of March 11, 2020, approximately 125,000 people had been infected with the Coronavirus, and nearly 4,600 have died. It’s being reported that symptoms are similar to a bad respiratory cold, with fever and cough. Taking precautions now to up your intake of immunity-boosting supplements, the same way you might if there was a cold circulating in your community, might help.

Safety Tips:

  • Wash your hands, more than you usually do, and consider wiping down surfaces – don’t forget your phone – with sanitizer wipes.
  • Have emergency food, water, and medical supplies prepared (always a good idea).
  • Practice breathing through your nose instead of your mouth. Nose hairs offer natural protection from airborne viruses. This is especially important for those living in urban areas.
  • Consider avoiding crowded places like airplanes, churches, theaters, etc.
  • Make sure you are drinking plenty of water.
  • If you smoke, it’s an especially good time to quit to protect your lungs.

In the event you or a loved one do get sick and need to go to the hospital, it’s important to prepare a list of your needs. Include your preferred hospital, your primary care doctor and any specialists, food allergies and preferences, and supplements and medications you take. Also indicate any procedures you desire or don’t desire. Additionally, you should name the person or people authorized to make healthcare and financial decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. We can help you prepare these documents in our office, either to take precautions against coronavirus or for any other reason. Please get in touch if you need help with any of this.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

I’ve always believed “the buck stops here” regarding protecting and providing for my family, no matter what. They are my responsibility, period. One of the ways that feeling manifests itself in me is that I’ve always had a stockpile of supplies, food, and water to last my family for months if normal services and goods aren’t available for whatever reason. My wife’s continually given me a hard time about the corner of the garage dedicated toward that endeavor until this weekend when she abruptly asked, “do we have enough food and water to get us through a quarantine if that happens?” I smiled, smugly, and responded, “we’re good; we’ll be okay.”

But while much of the focus has been on how to prevent catching the Coronavirus, or what to stock up on to survive if the pandemic wallops the U.S. like it has elsewhere, little has been mentioned on how to best legally and financially prepare for such a scenario. We know from what’s happening abroad that national economies as well as individual families are taking big financial hits in lost wages, not to mention the medical nightmare many people find themselves in. While panic and overreaction do more harm than good, I’m a big believer that you should always have your eyes wide open and ensure your family is prepared for these kinds of possibilities.

Here are five important tips to help you best prepare for the legal and financial aspects of a local Coronavirus epidemic or quarantine:

  1. Make Sure Your Medical Power of Attorney Is Accessible. Completing your medical power of attorney where you formalized your wishes for your medical care was a great first step, but make sure it would be accessible if/when it’s needed. Make sure the person you appointed to make your medical decisions if you are seriously ill or incapacitated knows where you keep the document. Also, file a copy with your primary care physician so it’s available through that avenue well before it’s needed, thus avoiding delays or confusion. If you have minor children, make sure they have a medical power of attorney as well, something we include with every Child Protection Plan.
  • Nominate Temporary Guardians for Minor Children. Most estate plans will include a provision in a parent’s will nominating permanent guardians to raise their children if the parent passes away. However, few law firms offer a Nomination of Temporary Guardian form as well. Temporary guardians (AKA first responders) are 3-4 designated family members or friends who live within 20 minutes and have legal permission to care for your children in an emergency scenario (thus significantly limiting the chances that the State would have to step in). If you have not named temporary guardians for your children, you should contact your estate planning attorney right away.
  • Make Sure You Have Enough Life Insurance. In my role as an estate planner, it surprises me how many families are either uninsured or considerably underinsured. Having a lone life insurance policy through your employer is rarely enough to cover what your family would need if you were to pass away during your working years. Plus, sometimes there are limiting provisions in those work policies requiring the death be caused by an “accident” as opposed to an illness such as the Coronavirus. You need to know how much life insurance you have and the exact death scenarios your policy covers. If you are not 100% certain that your existing insurance policies would cover your family’s needs, you should arrange for your existing life insurance policies to be reviewed by a trusted life insurance professional. Ask me for a referral if you don’t already have a trusted advisor in your corner.
  • Have an Emergency Fund. A Coronavirus quarantine is likely to last 2-3 week, which is a significant amount of time to lose out on a paycheck or have your business shut down. Beyond that, a mass quarantine would certainly affect our overall economy, causing residual effects to your finances over time. Most people do not have more than $1,000 in emergency funds, according to financial expert Suze Orman. She recommends that families save at least eight-months’ worth of living expenses in non-retirement/accessible financial accounts to be sufficiently prepared for any unexpected life event. For business owners, you also need to have enough financial reserves for your business as well.
  • Make Sure Your Trust is Funded. Setting up an estate plan is a great first step to protecting your loved ones in an emergency, illness, or death, as it ensures that your loved ones would be financially, emotionally, and physically taken care of. However, too many people fail to properly transfer their assets to their trust. Your estate planning attorney should help you make sure that your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, business interests, life insurance policies, real properties, retirement accounts, and your other financial assets are all properly connected to your trust. Without completing this very important step, those assets left outside your trust are subject to probate proceedings.

While individually, none of us can control a Coronavirus epidemic or quarantine from happening here, we can certainly make sure our families are legally and financially prepared. Call your trusted advisor or start by scheduling a complimentary planning session with a member of our team if you are not yet prepared, or to have your existing estate plan reviewed to ensure it has you as prepared as you should be.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

If you were to suddenly die today, would your loved ones know how to quickly find your estate planning documents? Would they know how to access all your financial accounts? How about your insurance policies? What about your login and password info to all of your digital assets?

One crucial part of estate planning that frequently gets overlooked is ensuring your loved ones can easily locate all your planning documents and other key assets upon your death or incapacity.

Don’t cause a logistical nightmare
Beyond burdening your loved ones with needless work and expense, if your planning documents, such as wills, prenuptial agreements, and insurance policies, can’t be located, it will be as if they never existed. The same goes for valuable assets like stocks, bank accounts, and other financial property no one knows about.

Given this, you should make sure someone you trust knows exactly where to find your planning documents – which should include an updated inventory of all your assets.

What to include in your planning binder or file
A little pre-planning and organization now can make things easier on your loved ones later.  Ensure you have updated copies (or the originals) of the following documents in one, easily accessible location:

  • An inventory of all your assets and their location
  • An advance healthcare directive
  • A will
  • Your living trust (if you have one)
  • Marriage or divorce certificate(s)
  • Instructions for your funeral and final disposition
  • Letters, cards, photos, and other treasured sentimentals
  • If you have minor children, a Child Protection Plan naming long and short-term guardians, along with detailed care instructions

Get your affairs in order—before it’s too late
Each family is unique, so this is just a baseline of what to include in your file. And because death or incapacity can happen to any of us at any time, don’t wait to get your affairs in order. Take steps now to give this gift to your family in the future.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

When it comes to estate planning, most people automatically think about taking legal steps to ensure the right people inherit their stuff when they die. And these people aren’t wrong.

Indeed, putting strategies in place to protect and pass on our wealth and other assets is a fundamental part of the planning equation. However, providing for the proper distribution of our assets upon death is just one part of the process.

And it’s not even the most critical part.

Planning that’s focused solely on who gets what when you die is ignoring the fact that death isn’t the only thing to be prepared for. You must also consider that at some point before your eventual death, you could be incapcitated by accident or illness.

Incapacity can be a temporary event from which you eventually recover, or it can be the start of a long and costly event that ultimately ends in your death. Indeed, incapacity can drag out over many years, leaving you and your family in agonizing limbo. This uncertainty is what makes incapacity planning so incredibly important.

In fact, incapacity can be a far greater burden for your loved ones than your death. This is true not only in terms of its potentially ruinous financial costs, but also for the emotional trauma, contentious court battles, and internal conflict your family may endure if you fail to address it in your plan. 

The goal of effective estate planning is to keep your family out of court and out of conflict no matter what happens. So if you only plan for your death, you’re leaving your family—and yourself—extremely vulnerable to potentially tragic consequences.

Where to start
Planning for incapacity requires a different mindset and different tools than planning for death. If you’re incapacitated by illness or injury, you’ll still be alive when these planning strategies take effect. What’s more, the legal authority you grant others to manage your incapacity is only viable while you remain alive and unable to make decisions about your own welfare.

If you regain the cognitive ability to make your own decisions, for instance, the legal power you granted others is revoked. The same goes if you should eventually succumb to your condition—your death renders these powers null and void.

To this end, the first thing you should ask yourself is, “If I’m ever incapacitated and unable to care for myself, who would I want making decisions on my behalf?” Specifically, you’ll be selecting the person, or persons, you want making your healthcare, financial, and legal decisions for you until you either recover or pass away.

You must name someone
The most important thing to remember is that you must choose someone. If you don’t legally name someone to make these decisions during your incapacity, the court will choose someone for you. And this is where things can get extremely difficult – and costly – for your loved ones.

This potential turmoil and expense can be easily avoided through proper estate planning. An effective plan would give the individuals you’ve chosen immediate authority to make your medical, financial, and legal decisions, without the need for court intervention. What’s more, the plan can provide clear guidance about your wishes, so there’s no mistake or conflict about how these vital decisions should be made.

What won’t work
Determining which planning tools you should use to grant and guide this decision-making authority depends entirely on your personal circumstances. There are several options available, but choosing what’s best is something you should ultimately decide after consulting with an experienced lawyer.

That said, we can tell you one planning tool that’s totally worthless when it comes to your incapacity: a will. A will only goes into effect upon your death, and then it merely governs how your assets should be divided, so having a will does nothing to keep your family out of court and out of conflict in the event of your incapacity.

Don’t let a bad situation become much worse
You may be powerless to prevent your potential incapacity, but proper estate planning can at least give you control over how your life and assets will be managed if it does occur. Moreover, such planning can prevent your family from enduring needless trauma, conflict, and expense during this already trying time.

If you’ve yet to plan for incapacity, we can counsel you on the proper planning vehicles to put in place, and help you select the individuals best suited to make such critical decisions on your behalf. If you already have planning strategies in place, we can review your plan to make sure it’s been properly set up, maintained, and updated. Contact us today to get started.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

In late February, Luke Perry, who became famous starring in the 1990s TV series Beverly Hills 90210, suffered a massive stroke at age 52. He was hospitalized under heavy sedation, and five days later, when it became clear he wouldn’t recover, his family decided to remove life support. Perry died on March 4th, 2019 surrounded by his children, fiancé, ex-wife, mother, siblings, and others.

Whether or not you were a Luke Perry fan, it’s hard not to be saddened when someone so young and seemingly healthy passes away suddenly. In these moments, the fragile impermanence of life becomes obvious. It’s life’s way of reminding us that incapacity and death can strike at any time, no matter who we are.

Reminders of the fleeting nature of life can motivate us to savor life now AND act to protect the ones we love through proper estate planning. And while we don’t yet know exactly what levels of planning Perry had in place, it appears he was thoughtful and responsible enough to have at least covered the basics.

Planning for incapacity and death
Perry was reportedly inspired to create his own estate plan following a health scare. In 2015, after discovering he had precancerous growths during a colonoscopy, Perry created a will, leaving everything to his two children. But since Perry was worth an estimated $10 million, divorced with kids from the first marriage, and about to be married again, creating a will was a start but not nearly enough.

Wills only apply to the distribution of assets following death, and even then, your will must go through the court process known as probate for your assets to be distributed. Because a will only comes into play upon your death, if you’re ever incapacitated by accident or illness as Perry was, it offers neither you nor your family any protections.

The power over medical decisions
During the time he was incapacitated, someone was called upon to make crucial medical decisions for Perry’s welfare, while his family was summoned to his side. To this end, it’s likely Perry designated someone to serve as his medical decision-maker by granting them medical power of attorney. He may have also created a living will, which would provide specific instructions to this individual regarding how to make these medical decisions.

Granting medical powers of attorney gives the person you name the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. The document that does this is known as an advance healthcare directive, and it’s an absolute must-have for every adult over age 18.

Without medical powers of attorney, if any of Perry’s family were in disagreement over how his medical care should be handled, the family may have needed a court order to terminate life support. This could have needlessly prolonged the family’s suffering and made his death even more public, costly, and traumatic for those he left behind. 

Learn from Perry’s example
Whether you already have a basic plan in place or nothing at all, you owe it to your loved ones to get educated about the specifics necessary to keep your family out of court and out conflict if something happens to you.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Retirement planning is one of life’s most important financial goals. Indeed, funding retirement is one of the primary reasons many people put money aside in the first place. Yet many of us put more effort into planning for our vacations than we do to prepare for a time when we may no longer earn an income.

Whether you’ve put off planning for retirement altogether or failed to create a truly comprehensive plan, you’re putting yourself at risk for a future of poverty, penny pinching, and dependence. The stakes could hardly be higher.

When preparing for your final years, it’s not enough to simply hope for the best. You should treat retirement planning as if your life depended on it—because it does. To this end, even well-thought-out plans can contain fatal flaws you might not be aware of until it’s too late.

Have you committed any of the following three deadly sins of retirement planning?

1. Not having an actual plan
Even if you’ve been diligent about saving for retirement, without a detailed, goal-oriented plan, you’ll have no clear idea whether your savings strategies are working adequately or not. And such plans aren’t just about calculating a retirement savings number, funding your 401(k), and then setting things on auto-pilot.

Once you know how much you’ll need for retirement, you must plan for exactly how you’ll accumulate that money and monitor your success. The plan should include clear-cut methods for increasing income, reducing spending, maximizing tax savings, and managing investments when and where needed.

What’s more, you should regularly review and update your asset allocation, investment performance, and savings goals to ensure you’re still on track to hit your target figure. With each new decade of your life (at least), you should adjust your savings strategies to match the specific needs of your new income level and age.

Failing to plan, as they say, is planning to fail.

2. Not maximizing the use of tax-saving retirement accounts
One way or another, the money you put aside for retirement is going to be taxed. However, by investing in tax-saving retirement accounts, you can significantly reduce the amount of taxes you’ll pay.

Depending on your employment and financial situation, there are numerous different plans available. From traditional IRAs and 401(k)s to Roth IRAs and SEP Plans, you should consider using one or more of these investment vehicles to ensure you achieve the most tax savings possible.

What’s more, many employers will match your contributions to these accounts, which is basically free money. If your employer offers matching funds, you should not only use these accounts, but contribute the maximum amount allowed—and begin doing so as early as possible.

Since figuring out which of these plans will offer the most tax savings can be tricky—and because tax laws are constantly changing—you should consult with a professional financial advisor to find the one(s) best suited for your particular situation. Paying taxes is unavoidable, but there’s no reason you should pay any more than you absolutely must.

3. Underestimating health-care costs
It’s an inescapable fact that our health naturally declines with age, so one of the riskiest things you can do is not plan for increased health-care expenses.

With many employers eliminating retiree health-care coverage, Medicare premiums rising, and the extremely volatile nature of health insurance law, planning for your future health-care expenses is critical. And it’s even more important seeing that we’re now living longer than ever before.

Plus, these considerations are assuming that you don’t fall victim to a catastrophic illness or accident. The natural aging process is expensive enough to manage, but a serious health-care emergency can wipe out even the most financially well off.

Start preparing for retirement now
The best way to maximize your retirement funding is to start planning (and saving) as soon as possible. In fact, your retirement savings can be exponentially increased simply by starting to plan at an early age.

Let us know if we can help. We’ll be glad to review what you have in place now, advise you about what you need, introduce you to advisors you can trust, and ensure you and your family are well-protected and planned for, no matter what.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,