By Jeff Wagoner, W M Law President
I absolutely love the holidays. It is a wonderful time for me mainly because I get to spend time with family that I rarely see throughout the remainder of the year. So, it’s a great time to catch up on their lives and listen to their joys and concerns about their life. It’s also a great time to discuss some issues that are difficult to discuss, but may make a difficult time in the future a little easier. Now, you don’t need to be in your golden years to have this discussion. This advice applies to “twenty-somethings” just as much (maybe more in some ways) as it does with great-grandmas. Last month, my blog was about the heart-breaking story that was shared by another attorney of when his family was in an horrific traffic accident that claimed the lives of both of his parents and an infant sibling. He and his toddler aged sister survived. His young parents had not done any sort of estate plan, and as a result, the two young surviving children became wards of the court for placement among family members. Don’t let that happen to your family.
Also, if you are getting up in age, then you should be speaking with the younger members of your family about your healthcare wishes, long-term care wishes, the location of your important documents, distribution of your assets upon your death and any other important matters that they should know about. If you have an estate plan, do they know where to find it? Do you have a financial power of attorney in force? Do you have a healthcare power of attorney in force? Do the people named in those documents know that you are counting on them? By the way, you should have a primary, a backup and a second backup named in each of those documents – AND it should not come as a surprise to them that they are named if and when those powers of attorney are needed.
Now, this doesn’t have to be a morbid and sad discussion. Grab a bottle of wine and some eggnog and just sit and chat for a while. Start by saying “Hey, I know that nothing is going to happen anytime in the near future, but, if something were to happen, then I just want you to know that . . . “ Also, if someone in that conversation has young children, you should ask them about their plans in the event that the above nightmare scenario were to happen. I’ll bet you dimes to dollars they haven’t thought about it.