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Estate planning lessons learned from our parents' mistakes

Dealing with a parent's diminishing physical and/or cognitive health can be both emotionally and financially draining. The same is true when a parent passes away, as many adult children are left to sort out not only their own complex feelings, but also complex estate matters.

Today, many baby boomers are being forced to face these difficult realities and the lessons, both the good and bad, they learn from dealing with the aging and deaths of their own parents will likely have an impact their personal views and actions with regard to estate planning.

While a will is the most basic and arguably important estate planning document, according to Forbes Magazine, 51 percent of individuals ages 55 to 64 and 62 percent who are ages 45 to 54, don't have a will. Additionally, even in cases where an individual has a will, many people fail to update or amend a will to reflect important life changes. Consequently, the burden is placed upon loved ones to sort out estate issues that are often confusing and time-consuming.

As a growing number of baby boomers are left to sort out and deal with the estate planning mistakes that their parents made, it's important to learn from such mistakes. In addition to ensuring that a will is comprehensive, clear and updated; baby boomers would be wise to take steps today to plan for future healthcare costs.

Many individuals who are nearing or in retirement have concerns about having enough money. While an individual is likely aware that he or she will need to pay for at least a portion of healthcare expenses, the true costs associated with the treatment of certain conditions or illnesses may be unknown. It's important, therefore, to take steps to estimate future healthcare costs.

According to national statistics, "the typical healthcare costs for an average couple over the age of 61 is $241,000," and the average monthly healthcare costs for a New York City resident can be around $14,000. Understanding one's current and projected healthcare expenses as well as the coverage terms of specific insurance plans and medical providers can at least provide a ballpark figure when formulating a plan for how to afford such costs.

Life is about learning from our experiences and, for a growing number of baby boomers, those experiences will include caring for and dealing with the deaths of aging parents. While difficult, these experiences can also prove to be invaluable when assessing one's own estate planning needs.

Source: A Place For Mom, "Poor Estate Planning Lessons Inherited by Baby Boomers," Kimberley Fowler, March 25, 2016

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