Thinking back to those awkward and uncomfortable conversations in your life, one that tops the list for many is the discussion about end of life planning and one’s estate plan. Fortunately, the right legal advocate in your corner can eliminate much of the confusion and certainly the awkwardness. The question is, where to start?
Initially, we encourage our clients, as they prepare for their first consultation, to identify different issues associated with their lives as a whole – medical, their careers and their legal situations. Even if it seems to feel a bit disjointed, by having everything in front of them, we can begin the conversation to ensure their stability during retirement and their end of life realities.
It’s important to take notes in your meetings, gather various documents as the needs arise so that a complete and solid plan can be created for our client’s behalf. While some initially begin the process alone, at some point, inviting their spouse or adult children into the conversation can ensure everyone is on the same page. It’s important for this to be done in a timely manner so that they and their family have end-of-life documents in order.
Depending on the client, he may wish to discuss matters like health care and financial powers of attorney, guardianships, their wills and other documents in the confines of our offices. Other times, they make the decision to speak with a loved one in the comfort of their own homes. We stress the importance of harmony, not only for themselves, but for their family members, especially if there’s a surprise or two that is bound to come out. Plus, it ensures any problems that arise can be handled now instead of later, when stress is at an all time high. There’s no shortage of research that suggests the better informed family members are, the better conditioned they are to handle times of crisis and transition.
One important document you may wish to consider is a letter of last instructions — separate from the will — to your lawyer, your executor or your family. This letter can be saved and opened upon your death, can provide further clarity and hopefully prevent hard feelings between surviving family members. It can also provide more intimate information, such as where certain documents are located, any funeral and memorial wishes you have and various directions for how you would like to see your business grow in the coming years. Remember that this will all be addressed within the estate plan, but this letter is a bit less formal. For some, it’s a great “bridge” that prepares them for the unveiling, of sorts, of their will and other estate planning documents. Remember, though, this isn’t a substitute for a will.
Guardianships are extremely important as well. These are the people you name to oversee your affairs should you become incapacitated. It’s important to choose someone you trust completely and absent that, a professional might be considered, one who has no ulterior motive or stake in your estate. Don’t underestimate their role, either.
It is never too late to make your end-of-life plans. More importantly, estate planning is an ongoing task that includes periodic evaluations to ensure it’s still in line with your final wishes. Give us a call today to discuss the process as a whole. We’re here to help.