Wesley's Rant: Planning for the Unexpected
Monday, March 15, 2021
When you look up the word “unexpected” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it simply says "unforeseen". As you investigate the meaning and review synonyms, you will see the words "abrupt, sudden, and unanticipated". The definition begs the question: how do you plan for the unexpected? If you did not know something was going to happen how can you begin to plan for it? The one thing that we all should know in life is that death is a part of our existence here on earth. Then why do so many people not plan for their eventual death?
I recently had to deal with the death of my father-in-law. It was sudden and unexpected in the sense of we were not anticipating the time and date of his passing here on earth. It has been devastating to my wife as emotionally she is beginning the process of grieving for a parent. However, because her father did indeed plan for his eventual death, many of the decisions and burdens that can burden a surviving family member, and must deal with as a result of an unexpected death, my father-in-law made the process much easier on us by making many of these plans ahead of time.
The fact my father-in-law was thoughtful enough to have an estate plan in place is making this time in our lives, grieving his loss, is helping to make the situation much easier to deal with as a family.
What did that estate plan consist of when it was all said and done? It contained all the basics that every individual with a spouse or children should have. It consisted of a Durable Power of Attorney, a Designation of Patient Advocate, a Last Will and Testament, a Revocable Trust, and proper beneficiary designations on his savings, checking, investment, and retirement accounts.
The physical life we all enjoy on earth will come to an end for each one of us someday. It is not unexpected. Then why do so many individuals fail to have a basic estate plan executed and in writing that is known to their surviving family members?
It cannot be the cost. In the scheme of life and all the things we can spend money on, the idea that having an estate plan prepared by an attorney is just too costly is simply an excuse. Accidents happen, dementia is a real thing, and the ability of a person to make his own decisions can be gone at the snap of a finger. A simple durable power of attorney can help alleviate the concern and stress of becoming incapacitated. This is especially important when it comes to handling the finances that can be involved.
Maybe we just think we have time, and a sudden event will not happen to me. A Designation of Patient Advocate or a “Living Will” is extremely important when the unexpected happens and you can no longer make medical decisions for your life. My recent experience could not be a clearer example of why an individual needs to have placed in writing what types of life-saving measures will be taken and what person he or she trusts to make those decisions in the event you can no longer communicate those wishes to your doctors yourself. My father-in-law had a stroke, or he fell resulting in a brain bleed, but no matter the order of events, he was left in a state that made him unable to communicate. The fact that he had taken the time to put in writing his thoughts concerning ventilators, feeding tubes and the whole arsenal of life-sustaining measures helped us in making the health care decisions that needed to be made.
Perhaps it is the excuse that probating an estate is not that bad. After all, what is the big deal if it takes six months to a year to go through probate? You eventually will inherit the assets. The reality is what if a “trust” had been prepared and the inheritance time could be cut down to a month or two. Why would you not want to spend less money and shorten the time it takes for your loved ones to receive your assets? I would encourage all who read this blog to plan for the unexpected. If your advisor has not told you this, find a new one.
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