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Estate Planning: Last Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney, Trust

Planning for the end of our lives isn’t an easy task, but it is an essential part of the aging process. A proper plan involves creating a will and estate plan that allows older adults to ensure their medical and financial wishes are met, while also guiding family members who are often responsible for making decisions upon the death of their loved ones. When done correctly, estate planning can provide family members peace of mind knowing their loved one’s wishes are being fulfilled both during and after the end-of-life transition. Whether you’re preparing your own estate or helping a family member plan their’s, there are key components everyone should consider when retirement planning. 

What Is Estate Planning?

At its most basic level, an estate consists of everything a person owns. This often includes checking and savings accounts, investments, real estate and vehicles, life insurance, and personal possessions. Estate planning allows individuals to make decisions about their health and medical care and funeral arrangements while they’re still able, which is especially helpful for family members as they grieve the loss of their loved one. While estate planning can look different for each individual, four key elements should be considered. 

Last Will and Testament

A last will is a crucial element of every estate plan. This document provides financial planning instructions on how your assets should be distributed, including donations to charities and property divisions among family and friends. Each estate has an appointed executor who is responsible for carrying out the will’s instructions and managing assets until they’re distributed to the appropriate parties. 

A last will doesn’t go into effect until after death. Read on to learn the difference between a last will and a living will.  

Living Will 

A living will provides a health care plan in the event you’re unable to make your own medical decisions due to being incapacitated in some manner. According to AARP, there are many different reasons older adults choose to make a living will. These often include the ability to give guidance to doctors and health care surrogates, provide clarity and closure to loved ones,and prevent conflict or disagreement among family members. Most importantly, a living will give an individual the power to dictate how they want to live and die. 

Despite these benefits, a majority of U.S. adults don’t have a living will. In fact, according to a May 2021 Gallup poll, only 46% of adults have a valid living will. Each state has its own rules and regulations about what kinds of witnesses to use and how to notarize the document. However, living wills address the following matters:

  • A standard direction that you do or don’t want life-prolonging procedures 
  • Specific long-term care planning instructions on what type of care you wish to receive, including ventilation, artificial hydration, and nutrition or CPR 
  • Whether or not you choose to be an organ and tissue donor 
  • Palliative care wishes, including your preference on where you’d like to die, or which invasive tests and procedures to avoid 
  • Spiritual and religious considerations 

Power of Attorney 

As you or your loved one plan your estate, you might also consider appointing a power of attorney. There are a number of different types and each one can ensure all your wishes are fulfilled: 

  • Health care power of attorney: This lets you give another person the authority to make decisions regarding your medical care. 
  • Durable medical power of attorney: This allows you to appoint a person who can continue to make decisions if you have become incapacitated. 
  • Financial power of attorney: They are legally required to act with your best interests in mind by reasonably managing finances and assets, avoiding situations where their interests conflict with yours, and keeping detailed records on your behalf. It’s also beneficial for married couples to name their spouse as a financial power of attorney to ensure they have access to funds held in the other person’s name.
  • Durable financial power of attorney : You can appoint someone to continue to make decisions even when you become too ill to manage finances. 


Many adults choose to establish a trust to hold their assets on behalf of their beneficiaries listed in their will. A trust allows an individual (the grantor) to permit another individual (the trustee) to hold title to assets or property for the benefit of a third party. Trustees are responsible for overseeing the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. Trusts are designed to protect the grantor’s assets and reduce the amount of estate taxes to be paid when a person dies. 

There are two types of trusts often used in estate planning: 

  • Revocable trusts (also called living trusts): These can be modified or revoked during the Your lifetime. You also have the power to add or remove beneficiaries or change how your assets will be distributed at the time of their death. 
  • Irrevocable trusts: This type of trust can’t be changed once it’s been created. 

Estate Planning at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how difficult it can be to discuss end-of-life plans with your loved ones. However, havinig a plan provides your family with peace of mind, knowing they have guidance and legal authority to fulfill your end-of-life wishes. Our communities provide estate and retirement planning seminars to help residents and their families navigate long-term financial planning and initiate important senior care conversations. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us

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Westport, CT 06880

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