Most people who say they want a new Will tell me they only want a “simple” will. Few of us can lay claim to living a simple life. As part of your “estate plan” I have the following questions for you to think about. Be honest with yourself, your attorney and your family. If the truth is unpleasant admit it so we can work to make the situation better.
Denial does no one any good. You cannot fix a problem until you admit a problem exists. There are solutions for almost every problem if we think about what needs to be done before it comes about. This article is not meant to provide solutions so much as to help determine what issues should be dealt with.
1. Do I have children from more than one relationship?
2. Do my children enjoy being with one another and share willingly?
3. Do I have any children with psychological, emotional or other behavior problems?
Telling your lawyer before the documents are prepared about possible disagreements among your children allows for planning to reduce disagreement and to appoint the persons who can best deal with any disagreements that might happen. A Trust is often a good tool to reduce the ability of a “problem” child to cause problems, but it is not the only tool. Healing emotional wounds now is far more effective and cheaper than letting the family go war in court after we die. Dispute resolution can be built into our documents if small arguments are likely.
4. Do I own land in more than one state?
5. Do I have existing health problems or am I likely to develop health problems?
6. Do I have adequate savings and/or insurance to pay for any possible health care that I may need after retirement? (consider Medicare supplemental policies, long-term care insurance, Medicare prescription policies, life insurance to fund a trust for spouse or child with special needs, annuities, etc.)
7. Do I know how much health care is likely to cost in the future?
8. Do I have a child or spouse who relies on governmental benefits such as Social Security (SSI or SSDI), Medicaid or Medicare for health care?
9. How many people do I trust who would be willing to accept the responsibility of making health care decisions for me? Have I actually spoken to these people to make sure they are willing to do so?
10. How many people do I trust who would be willing to accept the responsibility of paying my bills for me and investing my money or assets? Have I actually spoken to these people to make sure they are willing to do so?
11. If I no longer have family members who are able and willing to help me, do I know how to find trained and bonded professionals to help me with my health care and financial decisions.
12. If I have a child with severe disabilities do I have an existing care plan with enough detail and explanation that someone else can step in and take care of my child as I do now or better? Am I making adequate plans to fund a special needs trust or to otherwise provide for more than governmental benefits will provide my child?
If you do not get your wishes down in writing now, how is your family going to know just what you want? Frequently the planning needs of a family with modest means is greater than for a family with significant insurance or other assets. There is far more to an estate plan than reducing taxes. Most of us have far less than one million dollars and do not have the spare money to pay for any medical emergency that may arise. We need “asset protection planning” more than the wealthy millionaire who can afford to spend money we do not even have.
A good elder law attorney can help guide you through the available solutions to each of the potential problems listed above. A little planning can go a long way.