Please! Don’t Wait Until You Have a Crisis – to get your affairs in order

It happened again today, as it does just about every week.

Someone called and needed to be seen today because a parent was having a health crisis. I had to tell this adult child that I didn’t have any openings for the rest of the week. While it’s good for me that business is good, it is not good for this family who will have to keep calling attorneys before finding someone that can squeeze them in at the last minute.

I have spent my entire career telling people, cajoling people, to get their estate documents and affairs in order before they needed to. But we know they don’t. Why do something today that you can put off until (they hope) “the 12th of never”.

How do we know people don’t get their affairs in order? As sad as it is to say, as Americans we are more diligent about our car checkups than we are about estate and financial affairs checkups. We know that statistically almost 60% of Americans don’t have any estate planning documents. None. That means that 6 out of every 10 Americans have no wills. More importantly, they have no medical directives (living wills, health care surrogate appointments, medical powers of attorney, for example) and they have no durable powers of attorney (for finances).

To put this into perspective, 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day in the United States. That’s 3.65 million people every single year.  That means that each year an additional 2 million or so people don’t have any estate planning documents completed. It doesn’t take a college degree to know that if you are over 65 years of age, you are likely to be met with some health-related issue sooner rather than later.

In a health crisis, I often must tell families that mom is no longer capable of signing a medical directive and must instead have an adult child appointed as mom’s guardian, a time-consuming and costly procedure. The family is already in turmoil over the health crisis. This is not welcome news.

So here I am again, begging you to have this conversation with your family – your adult children, your spouse, your significant other, your partner, your grandparents, your parents, your friends, your neighbors, and your colleagues. Please don’t wait until you have a crisis to take care of yourself and your family. Call an estate planning attorney and get your will, your medical directive, and your durable power of attorney completed before you need to. Think of it as insurance. You may never need to use it, but aren’t you glad you have it just in case you do.

© 2018 Suzan D. Herskowitz