Monday, December 9, 2013

Control and the Estate Planning Process

Looking for motivation to face the question of your illness and or death?  Look no farther than the word "control".  That is what I tell audiences when I speak on the topic of estate planning.  It's about taking control.  If you do not, you are leaving key decisions to be made by someone other than yourself.  For some, this is what they need to hear to plow forward into writing powers of attorney and a will.  For others, no amount of prep talk will work, giving rise to the yin and yang of estate planning.  For every person resistant to completing papers, there is a loved one urging them on.

No matter how eager a loved one may be for you to complete your estate plan, they cannot force it to be done.  Over the weekend I spoke at our church and referenced the fact that we are assisting my mother with some stressful health issues.  Afterwards another member approached me about being in the "sandwich generation" and wondered what she could do to urge her aging parents to complete an estate plan.  "Not much" was my answer.

The control lies in the client, not the client's loved ones.  Often I field calls from concerned adult children, seeing a train wreck approaching: The confusion, the disagreement, the stress, the loss of time and money -- it is all headed their way.  Just as they cannot hop on a runaway train and become its engineer, they cannot force aging parents to complete useful paperwork.  What they can do is brace for impact.  Think worse case scenario and plan.  Things to consider:

  • what do the laws of the state the parent lives in allow for guardianship?  That is the process we often turn to when powers of attorney have not been done or are out-of-date; 
  • find an attorney you want to work with now, and have his or her number ready if and when needed; and
  • read about working with loved ones on how to make difficult decisions on health, finances and end-of-life issues.
And really, that is about it.  Brace yourself.  The crash may never happen.  There may be documents in place, but you just do not know about them.  But remember, the control in estate planning lies in the client's hands, not the loved ones.  

Thanks for reading, and remember a blog is not legal advice and should not be relied on.  Please consult an attorney in your state (or that of a loved one) for advice specific to your situation.

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