In our last post, we wrote about the sudden and tragic death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He was only 46 and died of an apparent heroin overdose after more than two decades of staying clean and sober.
Hoffman's death is a reminder that life is unpredictable – which means that death is also largely unpredictable. If you have been thinking about creating an estate plan but have been putting it off, have you thought about why that might be? You may be avoiding it because it is uncomfortable to think of your own mortality. Or, you may think that it won't matter what happens to your stuff after you die because . . .well, you'll be dead. In either case, there are counter-arguments to consider.
First, it is important to remember that estate planning is not just about you. No one likes to think about their own mortality, but we know that death is not a matter of “if,” it is a matter of “when.” If your time comes sooner than expected, those you care about most may be negatively impacted because an estate plan was not in place.
Next, remember that estate planning can include documents that state your wishes on end-of-life care. A living will and a Health Care Power of Attorney are both important measures that will give guidance on what to do if you are involved in a serious accident, are in a long-term vegetative state or are near the end of a long-term illness like Alzheimer's disease. If you have living will in place, your family may be spared from having to make impossibly difficult decisions on your behalf if you cannot make them or cannot communicate them.
Finally, consider the fact that something will happen to your possessions when you die, even if you don't create a will. Therefore, you might as well make sure that your assets and possessions will go where you want them to. Even though you'll be gone and technically don't have to worry about your earthly goods any longer, someone does have to worry, and it's usually someone close to you. So why leave behind a mess that your family has to clean up?
Estate planning can be difficult emotionally as well as logistically. But with the help of an experienced attorney, it doesn't have to be overwhelming. And with an estate plan in place, you may just feel a little less worried about life's inevitabilities.
Source: Star Tribune, “Resolve to get your affairs in order,” Tim Engle, Feb. 19, 2014