On March 4, 2019, America lost one of its favorite heartthrobs. Luke Perry (Coy Luther Perry, III) passed away after a tragic and unexpected illness. At the age of 52, he suffered a stroke, was hospitalized, and five days later, when it was clear he would not recover, his family made the decision to remove life support. In this devastating time, it seems that Luke Perry’s family was able to take swift and decisive action. Although his exact estate planning documents have not been made public, many are crediting his family’s ability to act quickly and without public embattlement to Mr. Perry’s forethought in creating a plan.
Make a Plan from a Place of Strength, Not Fear
Often, we see estate planning done (or not done) out of fear. Families tend to believe that preparing for worst-case scenarios either gives too much weight to things that may never happen or somehow prevents bad things from happening altogether. It’s human nature to be a little superstitious, but it’s not the best strategy for making major decisions.
Instead, it’s best to be practical. Of course, estate planning is an emotional topic, and that’s why it’s so important to work with a compassionate professional you like. However, it is equally important to take a pragmatic approach to put plans in place that create the best possible result if the worst possible thing occurs.
It’s Not Morbid to Admit You Don’t Know the Future
It’s not morbid to admit you don’t know the future — it’s kind. The difficult, the unexpected, and the painful may occur and having a plan in place is the most caring way you can prepare your loved ones to handle stressful and emotional situations.
Consider Luke Perry’s situation: if he did, in fact, have a clear Advance Healthcare Directive in place, naming a health care proxy to make medical decisions on his behalf, and a Living Will, indicating that he wished for life support to be removed when it became clear that he would not recover, these painful decisions would be much less confusing and stressful for his family. And if, as seems to be the case, he created a Revocable Living Trust providing for his adult children in the way that made sense for his family, they will be spared the cost, time, and stress of enduring a prolonged, expensive, and public probate process.
Create a Plan that Supports Your Loved Ones
In your own life, do you have a plan in place to support your loved ones if something happens to you? A will is a great place to start (it gives the court instructions on how you want your assets distributed after you’re gone and, if you have minor children, names your preferred guardian), but it won’t do anything to help if you suffer a sudden illness or incapacity. Unlike other estate planning documents, a will only goes into effect after you have died. What this means is, if you become ill or injured and are unable to communicate your wishes (medical, financial, and with regard to your children and your business), someone else will step in to make these critical decisions for you. Not only may this create a result that you would not have chosen, but it also can breed conflict among your loved ones.
Here’s an example: if you are injured in a car accident and are temporarily unable to communicate your wishes, who will pay your mortgage on time? Who will tell the doctor which medical procedures you would or would not consent to undertake? Who will make critical decisions about your business? What should those decisions be? The questions are endless, and inside of each one is the opportunity for disagreement among those most important to you. When emotions are running high during a crisis, it is not the best time to be making important and life-changing decisions.
Instead, take a step back. You have a unique opportunity to avoid all of the potential hurt and conflict and confusion that could lie ahead. Outside of a moment of crisis, you can make decisions now about how you would want stressful and traumatic situations to be handled. Then, if and when the time comes, there are clearly communicated instructions to follow. It’s a bit like writing a letter to your future self — except an estate plan is legally enforceable.
You Don’t Have to Go Through this Process Alone
At this point you may be thinking yes, of course having a plan in place sounds better than no plan at all. But, you have no idea where to start. You don’t even know what kinds of decisions will need to be made or how to initiate these conversations with your loved ones. Guess what? You don’t have to do this alone.
At Brian M. Douglas & Associates, our compassionate, experienced estate planning attorneys take the time to get to know you and your family. They are committed to walking you through the entire estate planning process to make sure that you understand what decisions need to be made and that you feel supported to create plans that support your decisions. Our attorney-client relationships are built on trust, and we are here to make sure that you feel prepared for whatever lies ahead. Give our office a call to begin the process: (770) 933-9009.