My husband died today. And then I did. And then one of my children…then my sister and brother-in-law…
“Sorry I keep killing off your family,” my lawyer said.
No, this was not the worst day ever. It was a hypothetical conversation that was long overdue. Today, my husband and I finally sat down with an estate planning lawyer to make a will, a trust for our children, and assign each other as Power of Attorney and Medical Proxy in the unfortunate event of our early death. (There were some morbid jokes on his behalf of how “unfortunate” his early death would be…”Remember honey, when the Insurance company calls: lump sum,” he advised.)
We are about 40 years old. Maybe you are thinking, “It took her this long?!” And maybe more of you are thinking, “Oh, uh…maybe that’s something I should…SQUIRREL!”
According to an ABC poll, less than half of Americans have done proper estate planning. I get it. My husband and I started this process a decade ago when we first bought a house and had babies. At the time, it was overwhelming. We didn’t think we could afford a lawyer, so after trying to DIY it, we gave up. We did notarize a document that selected a guardian for our kids, but that was it.
It took our going through the recent death of a family member for us to realize how important having a Power of Attorney and Medical Proxy are. You would think it will automatically be your spouse, or that your family members “know what your wishes are.” But the reality is, the medical/legal landscape is so complicated these days, that you would be putting them between a rock and a hard place if you became incapacitated (think Terri Schiavo), or deceased. My lawyer pointed out today that even people who were responsible with their estate planning 15 years ago, now have HIPAA laws and medical procedures that didn’t exist then that will negate their wishes. Sheesh. I’m glad I have her to think about this stuff for me.
And that’s the point: I don’t need to be an expert. Truth be told, it was not as expensive to hire her as I thought it would be, and our first meeting today to discuss what we need was free. I am so glad that I have set my children up for a future that I hope never happens. It’s not fun to think about this stuff, but it’s less fun to live it when people haven’t done their due diligence.
Prepare for impact, people. You will feel so much better when you have done the right thing.
(Want to Do It Yourself? There are many helpful sources on the world wide web)