Planning ahead is vital to securing your future
One of the tiny benefits of the slow drawl of the lockdown and the subsequent countdown to the vaccine is that it has forced us to think more closely about the relationships in our lives – to reevaluate and prioritize. With 52% of young adults having moved in with parents over the last few months, personalities, habits and generational viewpoints became intertwined with work from home, homeschooling, and chores. The pandemic brought the possibility of sickness and death closer to reality than ever before. Despite this, the one area that is often left out of casual discourse at the dinner table has been estate planning.
I’m not even talking about preparing for the black swan event like the Great Recession or the pandemic, both of which happened within the last 15 years. I’m talking about the inevitable destination that life takes to old age.
Nobody thinks they’ll get old, but everybody does
We’re fixated on our work which leads us to evaluate our achievements rather than how meaningfully we spend our time. As we move through life, juggling work, family, and leisure, and hoping that all the balls stay in the air, we should remember the scarcity of time and treasure it. The reality is that death is inevitable and a lingering outcome we suppress and drown out with our everyday happenings.
Many intelligent, driven, highly successful people want to believe that they’re never going to die, and if they do, it’ll be when they’re very very old. Black swan events exist in each person’s life just as much as it does for the world and the pandemic is a perfect example of this. People don’t like to think or talk about death; it’s an uncomfortable topic. During the last few months, it seems as if we all know someone who has passed from COVID-19 through a first- or second-degree connection. Of course, our ultimate goal is not a good death, but to lead a good life. However, it is critical that you help your loved ones be financially and emotionally prepared once you are gone. One of the most common issues with high earners is their lack of an estate plan. For the sake of your family, have the below documents taken care of.
The basic documents that are used in estate planning include:
Powers of attorney for property
Durable powers of attorney for health care
Living wills or advance medical directives
We will discuss the three most important ones here. Please speak to your financial planner with regard to the others.
1) A will – is a legal document that provides you the opportunity to control the distribution of your property at death and avoid your state’s intestacy laws. If you don’t have a will, your state of domicile will determine how your personal property will be distributed – who wants that?
2) A living will – also known as an advance medical directive, or in some states, a Natural Death Declaration or Instructive Directive, is not a will at all, but rather a legal document expressing an individual’s last wishes regarding the sustainment of life under specific circumstances. The living will establishes the medical situations and circumstances in which an individual no longer desires life-sustaining treatment in the event they are no longer capable of making those decisions. Individuals may also have a document called ‘DNR’ which stands for Do Not Resuscitate. These documents declare whether you wish to avoid having cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) performed in the event your heart stops beating.
3) A durable Power of attorney for Healthcare – also called a medical power of attorney, is a legal document that appoints someone to act on behalf of you, to make health care decisions in case you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. Unlike the living will, which states the person’s wishes regarding the sustainment of life, the durable power of attorney for health care puts health care decision making in the hands of a third person.
You probably want to avoid the probate process as this leads to delays (attorneys and courts), costs time, and is open to the public.
Remember to continuously review and go back to these documents especially when there is a major life event, e.g. marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, or moving to a different state.
How to emotionally prepare to broach the subject with your family?
There are many cultural connotations with talking about an inauspicious subject such as death – why talk about an inevitable outcome? However, there are often significant financial and personal benefits of being transparent and having sensitive conversations which include:
1. Reducing uncertainty and conflict for your family in an already difficult time. For example, you may realize that one of your survivors is not comfortable managing some of your assets or serving as a trustee
2. Empowering your family as they can see you are taking control of your future and not leaving things to chance
3. Providing an understanding of how you want your legacy to continue for generations to come
4. Allowing your family to take advantage of strategies to minimize taxes
It may be hard to pick a time to talk about estate planning but emphasize the importance and benefits of this conversation for everyone affected. Pick a time that is relatively calm, rather than wait for the middle of a crisis and be sincere in explaining that you are initiating these talks out of concern. Through it all, it is important that the lines of communication remain open within families, with lots of flexibility to accommodate any surprises.
Adviso Wealth is dedicated to working with people just like you. We want to give you the clarity and confidence you need to achieve your personal and financial goals.
To learn more, visit advisowealth.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org