Five legal documents you need by 55
Attorney Joanne Seminara speaks at Colonial Club
Good lawyers have different ways of reaching people, and attorney Joanne Seminara offered an engaging and informative talk at the Colonial Club of Bay Ridge meeting on Thursday.
Seminara has been a community leader in Bay Ridge for over 30 years and served has been a member of Community Board 10 for the last 20 years. She is an outspoken advocate in the neighborhood and is a partner at Grimaldi & Yeung LLP, where she specializes in the areas of elder law, estate planning and estate administration.
Elder law consists of looking at people’s comprehensive life insurance and their health issues and their needs for long-term care. “We look at if they have long-term health insurance and what kind of supplemental coverage they have. We also talk about government benefits and Medicaid.”
She said Estate planning includes things like wills and power of attorney.
Seminara explained the importance of planning for the future when is young enough to think straight. “At 55, we’re encouraging people to begin planning for their future. It’s the time in your life when you should say, ‘Honey, we have to go see a lawyer and put some basic documents in place.”
She explained the tragedies she has seen when people wait too long and dementia sets in. “We know from statistics that dementia is on the rise. Between the ages of 75 and 84, statistics show that 10 percent of us will have some form of dementia, over the age of 85 one-third of us will have some form of dementia. So once we have dementia planning is a challenge.”
So the first of the five legal documents one needs by age 55 is power of attorney, which authorizes a person or more than one person to act for you. “The power of attorney is your agent if the form is done properly, and many are not. It’s a 13-page document and it is extremely powerful, stress-saving, property saving and sanity saving . . . It is a lifesaver.”
The second document discussed was the health care proxy. This allows someone to choose one or two individuals to make health care decisions for them when they can’t make them for themselves. “You should choose the best person among your family, friends and loved ones to make these decisions for you. If you need surgery or must face a medical situation, you need to find someone who is going to make the right decision for you. It might not be your spouse. It might be one of your children.”
Seminara explained that many people fail to plan because they don’t know who to choose from their family members.
A living will is the third document needed, according to Seminara. It expresses one’s wishes about end of life health care. “When you are in terminal condition and do not want extraordinary care that can only prolong your life with respirators and machines you need to have a living will.”
Seminara called the living will the companion to the health care proxy. “It a terrible position to be in but it gives you some comfort to know the person is making that decision for you.”
The next document needed is a will so that you can decide who is getting your belongings when you are gone. That includes your money, your house and how and who is going to get it. It also allows you to determined who is going to be the administrator of your estate.
The final document needed is a digital diary that allows you to input your information on line and print it out on paper. “A digital diary allows you to put all the information about your accounts online. It includes everything you have on the web and you can include passwords, so that your agent can access the information and find out what you are about.”
Seminara’s book, “5 @ 55,” goes into further detail explaining the five essential documents needed. She co-authored the book with her husband attorney Pierre Lehu.
The Colonial Club holds its bimonthly meetings at restaurants in Bay Ridge.
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