I think most folks will remember that the Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared”.
That, of course, is wise advice to follow all of one’s life and is maybe even more important for us at this time of our lives. Many of us are taking care of or keeping an eye on our elderly parents. Many others of us are starting to come face to face with the reality that we can no longer do what we used to and that our bodies are paying the price for living the life we chose and decisions we made in arriving here today. Whether we are thinking of ourselves or are thinking of our parents, maybe this is the time to take inventory and plan for what may or may not be in our future.
I think the majority of us hope that we will one day face eternity without being troubled by such things as an inability to drive, a limited ability to climb stairs or even walk, a loss of hearing or sight, reduced mental capabilities, and many of the other infirmities that limit us and also cause a physical, financial, or emotional cost to our loved ones. Like me, you may envision and hope for a quiet passing during sleep, after a good day of working or playing and an evening enjoying time with our loved one. However, the reality is that this scenario may not be what is in my future or in yours.
Given that, I return to the Boy Scout motto and want to think of how we can be prepared for ourselves or for parents and loved ones in our lives. There are several aspects to be considered and for this piece I will open with Legal Issues.
It is imperative that you have your will completed in detail and updated. We have all seen the celebrities who died this past year leaving no will. What a mess they left to their heirs. For them and for you, with no will, the state will take over the disposal of your assets and charge your estate about 20% to do so. So not only does your estate get reduced by a significant amount, you have no say in which loved ones receive the fruit of your lifetime labor. This pertains not only the financial fruit, but also the priceless mementos that would bless someone special to you as money cannot. For instance who gets the engagement ring, grandfather’s watch, etc, etc.
As a side note, my wife and I have decided not to have one of our children be executor. We have seen too many sibling relationships be strained or broken by disagreements over the division of assets and we will not subject our children to this possible strain, so we have named a person we can trust to carry out our wishes.
Another legal issue that must be addressed is the health care power of attorney and your own desires of the care you want to receive at the end of your life. Who will make decisions should you be unable to? What do you want your obituary to say? What type of funeral arrangements?
In The Silver Life you read a regular contribution by the attorney Leonard Baer who specializes in these legal issues and I cannot commend him more and recommend that you read each of his contributions carefully and apply them to your situation.
In addition, and perhaps the most important, is that you discuss with your children all of your arrangements and your rationale for your decisions. If you are taking care of parents, ask them to address these things I’ve listed above, maybe even refer them to Attorney Baer’s columns. But to leave these legal aspects unaddressed is, in my opinion, in addition to a financially negligent action is also a cruel action that hurts loved ones and can leave scars that damage them for years to come and may never heal.