Benjamin Franklin’s dire assessment of life’s certainties proves true yet again.

It is still as true today as it was in 1789 when Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Despite his best efforts to avoid falling victim to this inviolable inevitability, Japanese supercentenarian Jiroemon Kimura, who was recognized by Guinness World Record as the oldest living man in the world, fell victim to the former of Franklin’s two certainties when he tragically died on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, at the age of 116. Before you shed any tears for Mr. Kimura, however, consider the fact that Mr. Kimura achieved something in life that should make him the envy of every inhabitant of the world he left behind. I am not talking about Mr. Kimura living until 116, despite the fact this was quite the accomplishment. No, what I am alluding to is worth far more than simply living to see the invention of both the automobile and the iPhone; Mr. Kimura was retired for 51 YEARS!

While the thought of spending 51 years doing whatever makes one happy in life may initially inspire envy and awe; such feelings are quickly replaced by pure, unadulterated fear of the financial implications of such an extensive retirement. When Mr. Kimura retired in 1962 at the age of 65, he had spent 45 years of his life working in post offices in Japan. If the Japanese postal service was anything like the United States postal service, there is at least a fair possibility that Mr. Kimura had a pension plan that sustained him through his 51 years of retirement. But, how would a member of Generation X, Y, or the Millennials financially support themselves in their later years if they were not one of the lucky few that still earned a company provided pension? From 1980 through 2008, the proportion of individuals who received pensions from their employers fell from 38 percent to 20 percent, and this trend shows no signs of slowing, as the push for privatized retirement continues. In today’s world, IRAs and 401(k)s are the norm. While the benefit of privatized retirement is an issue best left for politicians and economists to argue over, one thing is certain: if you manage to avoid death for as long as Mr. Kimura, there is a pretty good chance that you will not have saved enough during your working years to sustain yourself financially for 51 years of retirement, absent some planning for such a possibility in your younger years.

Many of us spend our whole lives eating well and spending hours in the gym to hopefully live as long as Mr. Kimura, but the reality is, we may not be able to afford defying death for 51 years after retiring. While Mr. Kimura’s story is certainly an outlier, it highlights the difficulties that individuals are increasingly faced with as they try to plan and budget for their “golden years.” During the same 1980 to 2008 period that saw the drastic decline in the percentages of Americans with pensions, the United States life expectancy increased from 73.66 years to 78.64 years. And, with modern medicine advancing at exponential rates, the need to think about, and plan, for these later years is crucial. The silver lining to all of this is that there are innumerable solutions to this very problem; however, because of the variety and complexity in both an individual’s financial circumstances and the solutions available, it is crucial to have competent advisors to guide you in making decisions that will fit your financial needs.

While many people consult and build relationships with their accountants and financial advisors, building a relationship with your estate planning lawyer can be just as important. People’s personal and financial lives change over time, and having a trusted estate planning lawyer who understands the details of you and your family’s individual needs is crucial. When Mr. Kimura retired, for example, he was 65 years old, married, and had seven children. In his 51 years of retirement, in addition to being able to support himself and his wife financially, Mr. Kimura was also likely burdened with concerns over providing his descendants. At his death, Mr. Kimura left behind five children, fourteen grandchildren, twenty-five great-grandchildren, and fourteen great-great-grandchildren. Had Mr. Kimura and his wife drafted a will when Mr. Kimura was forty years of age, this will would have been 76 years old by the time Mr. Kimura died. These seventy-six years brought world war, technological innovations, and political revolutions on a global scale, and, on a personal scale, the passing of Mr. Kimura’s wife and growing family tree. The importance of changing your estate plans as your financial needs and situations change cannot be understated. And, while many of us likely have accountants and financial advisors with addresses on Wall Street, having a local estate planning attorney is crucial, as the laws can vary dramatically from one state to the next. Thus, if you live in Florida, it is imperative that you have a knowledgeable and competent Florida probate/trust/estate planning attorney if you wish to ensure that you are provided for in your golden years, and your loved ones when you are gone.

If you intend to live a long and comfortable life like Mr. Kimura, you should consult with an estate planning attorney early well before retirement and update your estate plan as your financial needs, your family dynamics, and the laws change. That way, if Mr. Kimura’s secret of eating light meals and not smoking works as well for you as it did for him, you can enjoy your golden years (or, perhaps more accurately, golden decades) without the concern of financial uncertainty. The legal team at Chepenik Trushin LLP is ready, willing, and able to work with you to make sure your financial security and estate plan are structured in accordance with your personal financial situation and goals. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation.

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