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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

Q: What planning should I do before I retire?

Ah, retirement. The golden years. The time to slow down, leave the long workdays behind, and finally reap the rewards of a lifetime of saving for the future. It’s finally time to focus on pursuing the things that interest you most. But before you head to the beach, the green, the airport, or the grandkids, you should check on the status of your estate plan. At some point before closing in on retirement—maybe long ago– you most likely connected with a New York or New Jersey estate planning attorney.

They likely drafted a comprehensive estate plan that included not only a will and/or trust, but also the documents that plan for incapacity—like durable powers of attorney, healthcare proxies, and a living will, among others. These documents appoint trusted friends or family or fiduciaries to step in and handle your financial and/or healthcare decisions if an illness, accident, or injury renders you unable to manage your affairs. A living will outlines your wishes for potential end-of-life medical decisions in case you become unconscious, terminally ill, or can’t communicate your wishes—so your agents will know what you’d want them to do.

Ideally, estate planning is not a “one and done” thing. As you go through life’s changes, your estate plan may need changing, too. If it’s been a long while, it may be time to see your estate planning attorney to determine if a modification to your estate plan is necessary or advisable due to a change in your circumstances or in the law.

Medicaid planning is a must for virtually every person prior to retirement age. The costs of long-term nursing home care can wipe out a lifetime of savings and leave you and your loved ones in financial ruin very quickly. A proper estate plan can protect your nest egg from the reach of a nursing home, so your loved ones are taken care of.

Do I need to include digital assets in my estate plan?

In addition, the explosion of digital technology over the last couple of decades has resulted in virtually everyone having some, or even many, digital assets that need addressing in an estate plan. It’s important to list and plan for how your digital assets – including personal data, passwords and hardware – will be accessed, managed, or closed after you’re gone. This is especially important for any accounts that generate income or compensation.

While passwords and other sensitive data would not be included in a will, which becomes a public record, it should be compiled and given to the executor or kept with the will in a safe place. Remember to periodically update it to make necessary additions and deletions.

A smart estate plan, like smart retirement planning, can result in peace of mind and more enjoyment during your retirement years.

If you need an initial estate plan, would like to modify an existing one, or have any other questions, the estate planning experts at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in Staten Island, New York and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all aspects of estate planning, estate administration, and real estate law.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.