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CPAs: Watch keepers for elder planning By Kevin Pillion, CPA, JD

CPAs can provide a value-added service by watching over clients’ estate plans. For CPAs with elderly clients, this includes protecting them against two common and costly problems: 1) not having estateplanning documents, and 2) failing to update their existing documents, or to update the beneficiary designations on their retirement plans and insurance policies. Elderly people need at least five estate-planning documents, which are discussed here. Also discussed is the Living Trust.

The absence of a Living Will places emotional stress on loved ones if the client has an incurable or irreversible condition that will result in death. The importance of having a Living Will was demonstrated in the famous case of Terri Schiavo. If she had executed a Living Will,

LIVING WILL A Living Will, or Advance Health Care Directive, is a legal document that makes known a client’s health care wishes regarding life-sustaining care such as food, hydration or ventilators. It is used when the client is terminally ill or is in a persistent vegetative state.

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the delay and litigious nature of her death could have been avoided. HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY A Health Care Power of Attorney, or Health Care Proxy, is a legal document appointing another person as a health-care agent to make a client’s medical decisions when the client is unable to do so. This document is particularly important for widowed or unmarried clients. Without being named in a Health Care Proxy, loved ones may be denied access to the client’s doctors and medical records. They also may run into legal roadblocks that prevent them from making decisions regarding the client’s: smedical treatment and medication sliving arrangement (e.g. a nursing home) shiring and firing of doctors shospital visitation access FINANCIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY A Financial Power of Attorney, or Durable General Power of >>>

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CPA ELDER PLANNING CHECKLIST Client’s Name: __________________________________________________________________ Date: __________________ Checklist completed by: __________________________________________________________________________________ 1. Determine if client has faced or will be facing any significant life events, including: Marriage

Significant increase or decrease in assets

Divorce

Decline in health

Unmarried partner relationship

Move to a new state or into a new home

Unmarried partner dissolution

New business or winding down of existing business

New child, grandchild or stepchild

Change in tax or non-tax laws

Special-needs child or grandchild Death or disability of a spouse, unmarried partner or beneficiary

A pet that the client wishes to provide for

Death, incapacity or falling out with personal representative/ trustee/guardian/POA agent

NONE

Other: ___________________________

2. Determine if client has estate-planning documents, and if any changes are needed to them because of the life changes noted above. Name of Document

Date Done

Changes Needed (Yes/No)

Notes

1. Living Will 2. Health Care Power of Attorney 3. Financial Power of Attorney 4. HIPAA Waiver 5. Last Will 6. Living Trust 7. Beneficiary Designations on Retirement Plans & Life Insurance 8. Other:

3. If client has a Living Trust, inquire whether appropriate assets have been titled into the name of the Living Trust, especially any newly acquired assets (e.g., bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate, etc.).

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CPAs: Watch keepers for elder planning  
CPAs: Watch keepers for elder planning  
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