Many people think that “estate planning” means deciding what happens to your things when you die. For that reason, many young families do not consider estate planning to be a priority. However, it may be one of the most important things young parents can do! A Will is the document in which parents can state who they want taking care of their young children if the parents should die.
There are other important issues an estate plan should address which have nothing to do with your assets. Some may remember the experience of Terry Schiavo. In 1990, Ms. Schiavo collapsed and was left in a persistent vegetative state. Her parents fought her husband’s attempt to have Ms. Schiavo taken off of life support. Both sides were adamant they knew what Ms. Schiavo would have wanted.
The ensuing fight was tragic by any definition. Multiple lawsuits were filed and both the State of Florida and Congress got involved; all to address what should happen to Ms. Schiavo. After 15 years, Ms. Schiavo was finally allowed to pass away.
Even if Ms. Schiavo had a Will, it would have done nothing to address (or avoid) that fight. However, the entire fight could have been avoided had Ms. Schiavo signed a Living Will, a document that should be part of every estate plan. With a Living Will, Terry Schiavo would have stated what she wanted to happen. There would have been nothing about which to fight.
A proper estate plan should address what happens to you (and your things) if you become incapacitated.
As we learned from Ms. Schiavo’s experience, everyone has an estate plan. The real question is whether your estate plan is one you choose or one that is chosen for you. It is a safe bet that Ms. Schiavo would not have chosen for her health challenge to create a national, acrimonious battle embroiling those she loved most.
© 2016 Steven J Wright