A Checklist for Senior Retirees on Cape Cod – From a Cape Cod Estate Planning Attorney
As someone who was born and raised on Cape Cod, I believe I have a deep knowledge concerning both the needs and resources of our unique community. And having observed older and elderly citizens as a young person in various volunteer or paid positions over the years, I’ve assembled a kind of mental checklist of do’s and dont’s for myself and my family. I will save the reader from the “Life is short” and “Don’t sweat the small stuff” clichés and move on to the more practical aspects of my experiences.
Initial Considerations – What are you going to do with yourself?
Retirement offers a whole lot of freedom that people very often are not ready for. And just to be clear: the daydreams that the soon-to-be-retired often have while at work do not count as actual planning. Prior to retiring it is important for most to put some serious thought into how they want to spend all of their new found free time. However nice the idea of living an unscheduled life sounds, even this can become pretty mundane after a while. If there were ever a time to explore a long held hobby such as art or music, this is it. And finding a way to structure that activity so that it is a regular occurrence can really enhance quality of life. At the least, perhaps a part-time job is worth lining up. These are plentiful on Cape Cod in the summer, but there are also a lot of year-round opportunities for businesses that slow down in the winter.
As part of this process, married retirees should definitely also have a discussion together focused on this very subject. Do both spouses have similar goals in retirement? Does either of them want to work, or to travel? Will one sleep in, while the other wants to wake up early for a walk each day? It is surprising how often couples fail to have such a simple conversation as this prior to retirement. But doing so can be a significant benefit to the marriage, and in achieving both spouses’ goals after retirement.
Become involved in your community – in as many ways as possible.
Cape Cod has an almost limitless number of organizations that exist to unite people with common hobbies, beliefs or community initiatives. Examples include photography clubs, church groups, political organizations and civic and philanthropic volunteer organizations.
I recommend these groups even for people who don’t feel especially social because many of them (for example volunteer organizations) simply need bodies to help with basic community needs. Local senior centers are an excellent example. I sit on the Barnstable Council on Aging, which addresses the needs of seniors in that town. A great deal of our discussions relate to the need for volunteers at the Barnstable Senior Center; to help serve lunches, to help with transportation, even to stuff envelopes!
The reason I suggest becoming involved is less about civic duty and more about remaining independent. Being a part of such a group can contribute to one’s sense of usefulness in society. And especially for those who don’t work or have a lot of family in the area, staying isolated from others for extended periods of time can be detrimental. In my experience, those who do so are often unaware of the resources and services, not to mention other members of the community willing to lend a helping hand, available to them.
Make sure your estate plan is updated – didn’t you expect this?
Yes, I am a Cape Cod estate planning attorney, so it is required that this recommendation be included in my checklist. Typically an estate plan should be updated every 5 years – or with the occurrence of some life changing event; be it a birth, death or marriage. Estate planning goals too will change so that plans may be modified with respect to avoiding Masshealth Medicaid liability, estate tax liability and/or the probate process. Particularly now in 2012, when Massachusetts has just enacted the new probate code, it is a good time for reviewing wills and trusts.
But some of the most important documents in an estate plan are actually the simplest, and easiest to forget. In my experience, having a recent health care proxy and power of attorney in place is the most critical contingency plan for seniors in the event of an accident or ailment. The alternative, if these documents are not in place, often leads to the very expensive and time consuming processes of applying for guardianship and/or conservatorship with the court. If you learn one thing from this attorney, know that those procedures are anything but cheap!
Maintaining the Lifestyle – Form a Budget and/or Downsize
For those of us who don’t have an unlimited money supply, there needs to be a budget in place that addresses realistic projections of expenses while considering existing assets. Retirement planning will look at the income portion of these considerations, but retirees don’t actually know their day-to-day expenses until they’re living the retired life. Those moving from the Boston area to retire on the Cape, for example, may find they miss some of the city’s many conveniences and make frequent trips back and forth at first. Or, perhaps moving closer to the ocean will inspire the purchase of a boat!
So leaving room for error by downsizing, e.g. in terms of the size or number of houses, number of vehicles, is one step many will take to ease the strain of associated expenses.
Regardless of what path you choose, retirement offers a great opportunity to spend time doing whatever it is you want to do. My hope is that, especially with respect to my own eventual retirement, we are all able to plan enough to make the most of it.
For more information about estate planning, Medicaid planning, probate matters or business law visit www.cape-law.com or contact Attorney McNamara via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.