The 5 essential documents that everyone needs in place from age 18 and beyond are:
  1. Last Will & Testament (or a Trust in certain cases, not all)
  2. Durable Power of Attorney (For managing money matters)
  3. Health Care Power of Attorney (For managing health matters)
  4. Living Will (For making sure that your wishes are honored in an end-of-life situation, should you not be able to communicate them directly)
  5. Digital Diary (Part of our more modern lives, this is an inventory or list of digital assets and information online, such as bank accounts, pictures, etc.,. For more information on this, be sure to check out this link: https://vaelderlaw.com/practice-areas/digital-accounts-assets-after-death
If you ask them, most people know already that they should have estate planning in place, so why do they put it off? 
The hard truth here is that procrastination is the thief of time in our everyday lives. A lot of well-meaning people mean to start planning 'tomorrow'. But in many cases, 'tomorrow' simply never comes. 

In the case of our firm alone, we receive phone calls daily from families in an estate planning (or lack thereof) total panic who have been told that their loved one has lost capacity due to progressive diseases like Alzheimer's or dementia, or perhaps due to a stroke or some sort of accident. All of a sudden, the family have been told by a doctor or facility that they now need Power of Attorney over this person, but often, sadly by this stage of a disease or situation, that is rarely possible. When that occurs, Guardianship is often the only real option. 

In a Power of Attorney situation, this is where someone as part of their overall estate planning, names the person or persons ahead of time that they would want to represent them on their behalf in the event that they  become incapacitated and are no longer able to handle their own affairs directly. 

In a Guardianship situation, this is where the court has to step in instead to appoint someone to manage their affairs for them because they had no such documents in place ahead of time, or the documents that were in place were insufficient for the incapacitated's specific situation now.

The difference between these two situations alone cost-wise is worth noting: Hundreds vs thousands of dollars in legal fees, in addition to required yearly bonds, inventories, and ongoing court supervision for the life of the incapacitated!  Sadly, no one has a crystal ball and truly knows what their future may bring. Life favors the prepared, and it is ideal to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Another example of the consequences of lack of planning occurs at death when someone passes away without a Last Will & Testament in place. That can also result in unexpected chaos!  Definite delays in administrating the estate, the assets are distributed strictly by bloodline instead, which may not be what the person actually wanted, dependant minors or disabled heirs must now wait for the funds needed to support them, and legal and administrative costs of settling the estate all INCREASE dramatically. A Will or Trust  done under the direction of an attorney who specializes in Elder Law in your local area is key to ensure assets can be left in a protected way for your loved ones the way you would prefer that they be handled.
We all think we have time in life, until we simply don't.The simple truth is there is nothing more important than taking the time to protect yourself, your family and your assets both now and in the uncertain future. Today’s world is changing around the clock in so many ways, every single day!  In our day-to-day lives, we worry about our own health as well as our loved one's health, along with our families in general and our ability to financially take care of ourselves. 5 @ 55 is part of a nation-wide effort started by New York Attorneys Judith D. Grimaldi and Joanne Seminara, to bring much-needed awareness to the need to plan for the future.
The thinking behind this 5@55 campaign is that for most families, this is the age that people now have time to reflect on what they feel is important. In most cases, their family responsibilities are not as many, usually they are more settled in their careers by this point, and most of their children have reached the age where they are leaving the home for college or have moved out.
At age 55, one needs to take stock of the fact that they may well live into their 90’s and beyond, and will need a plan to live out their dreams in retirement. One certainly needs to address how they will address the continually growing high cost of long-term care in the future! It is also a good time to make sure that you control your future by implementing Advance Directives such as a comprehensive Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will.
The approach of 5@55 is a sound way to ensure you and your loved ones are protected today and in the future! Mr. Haley's seminars on Estate Planning Basics include many points from this presentation. To see upcoming seminars on Estate Planning Basics such as the subject matter covered in 5 @ 55, check out this link below: