We recently spoke to Andrew H. Hook, an elder law and estate planning attorney with Oast & Hook (www.oasthook.com), about trends he’s observed during the economic downturn. Andy is past president of the Special Needs Alliance and a nationally known elder law, special needs, and estate planning expert. Here’s what he had to say…
Q: How is this economy affecting the seniors who turn to you for advice?
A: The issues for seniors are the same ones we’ve dealt with for years—except that the situation is more extreme. Many of the elderly are ill prepared for retirement, which has always been true. They come to us with mortgages on their homes and high credit card debt. They have no long-term care insurance and insufficient assets to cover insurance deductibles and co-payments in the event of acute illness. They haven’t done the financial planning that’s necessary to ensure quality of life during their golden years.
Q:What’s the answer?
A: Saving and planning. People have assumed too much debt over the course of their lives and, consequently, have been faced with enormous interest payments—way too much. They have mortgaged their futures.
Q: How is this affecting other family members?
A: That’s where I’ve observed a big difference in this economy. The adult children, who are usually between the ages of 45 and 60, are themselves thinking about retirement. The recession has caused many of them to lose their jobs, and the value of their 401(k) investments has plummeted. They’re counting on an inheritance to make up the difference, but given the issues being faced by their parents, the size of the estate may be negligible.
Adult children may always have had expectations concerning the family estate, but now their need is more urgent. I’m seeing a greater fear among members of that generation, and it’s certainly causing more conflict between siblings. There aren’t a lot of Ozzie and Harriet families out there.
Andy, thanks for taking the time to share your views with us. We appreciate it, and we hope that your comments inspire others to put their legal and financial affairs in order.