Estate planning is what we all put off till tomorrow. We all hope that we won’t die young, unexpectedly or with young children. No one wants to think about immortality. However, we have to think about the unspeakable and make choices regarding our property, kids, and end of life provisions.
To ensure that my client’s wishes are accomplished, the tough questions must be asked. Having answers to the following questions will help you prepare for a meeting about planning your estate.
1. Who will raise your children if both parents die?
Many parents don’t draft Wills because this is such a difficult issue between parents. My clients have voiced concerns about aging parents and hurting one spouse’s parents’ feelings. I also had a client whose spouse wanted to address visitation rights of grandparents in the Will. It is better to face this difficult decision because if you fail to name a guardian, then the court will do it for you, based on what it deems to be in the best interest of your child. Unless you have confidence that a judge who never knew you has better judgment than you do about matters involving your children, it is best not to stick your head in the sand for 18 years.
2. Who will fill the role of executor or trustee and who will act as an agent under a financial and medical Power of Attorney?
Selection of these roles is vital and many clients worry that they will hurt someone’s feeling when they pick the executor or trustee. I have had parents put off writing their documents because they don’t want to have to choose one child over the other child. I had a client whose sibling passed away without a Will and the families couldn’t agree on who would administer the estate. As a result, there was a court administered estate which was costly and cumbersome.
3. Do you have special needs heirs?
Special needs and disabilities matter very much and special trust provisions may be needed. Without them, devastating consequences can occur. A court will have to be involved and a guardian will have to be appointed to ensure that the special needs heir is protected. You want to avoid this expensive court proceeding.
4. When do you want the plug pulled?
You should be asked to sign a health care directive concerning the withholding of nutrition and hydration. This is a good time to address with your agent and family what you want to be done if the circumstances call for it. Recently, my grandmother became bedridden and was unable to move without pain. She had made it clear that she didn’t want medical intervention when her time came. We made sure she was kept comfortable. It is helpful to share that information with your healthcare agent who has to be a part of carrying out instructions. If you don’t share that information, people may let loved ones linger on when if they had had more insight they might have ceased aggressive medical intervention sooner.
These are just a few questions that should be addressed in the meeting with the attorney. The conversation may end with an open-ended question such as, “Is there anything else I should know?” If there are any questions, concerns or matters that you believe are important, please speak up. You never know when that additional little detail will make a big difference.