Since 1955, the average lifespan of Americans has grown by 10 years. This is a very important point in terms of estate planning and financial advising. According to one financial advisor from Merrill Lynch, as the life spans of Americans increase, so too does the risk of outliving one’s retirement savings. This means that the inheritances we leave behind could also be smaller — if there is anything left at all.

It is important not to simply focus on a magic number regarding what a person will need for retirement, and how much that will leave behind for heirs. The truth is that taxes, inflation and good or bad health could all have an effect on one’s retirement savings and the size of the inheritance one leaves behind.

Health care costs could represent a significant drain on the retirements of the modern retiree. The most costly drain, however, is long-term care. In some cases, New York residents might spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on long term care expenditures — which could cause them to leave little or nothing for their heirs.

However, the fact that we are living longer is not only a negative. It is also a positive because we may have a longer amount of time in order to get things done. For example, we will have more time to continue earning income deeper into our senior years, and we will have more years that can be used to make annual gifts to loved ones.

At the end of the day, estate planners and financial planners are recommending that individuals focus on their estate and retirement planning as early as possible. Indeed, every adult New York can and should have at least a rudimentary estate plan.

Source: Financial Planning, “Longer Lifespans Yield New Paradigm for Estate Planning,” Paul Hechinger, Aug. 12, 2015