Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Gather around kids! It's time to let you all in on a little secret…your no longer children. In fact, a lot of Millennials are almost about to hit the forty year old mark. This means that mom and dad, who are most likely boomers, will want to have a chat with you. It'll definitely involve the future, but more importantly, it'll involve some difficult topics. No one wants to think about their mortality, but this is why I have to stress the eminent of an estate plan.
To make it clear, an estate plan is NOT something that designates in which assets will be inherited by whom. That is the responsibility of a will. What the real goal of an estate plan does is that it sets in stone with who will be the one to make decisions in the matter of something happening to mom or dad that makes them incapable of doing so. This is done so that in case of a medical emergency, the adult child can focus more time on making medical choices instead of fighting with the rest of the family over whose in charge. With no estate plan, the court usually has to get involved, which only becomes a complicated and expensive process.
Which documents do I need?
So I'm sure you've heard of a will. That’s the piece of paper that specifies how your loved one's assets are distributed to everyone. That’s a necessary part of an estate plan, but there's a lot more to it that makes it a big deal. Documents that are a part of estate plans include a power of attorney, a healthcare proxy and a living will. All of these things are key to set someone up do not only make the medical decisions, but also handle the financial choices. This means the person can pay bills, deal with insurance and make necessary purchases. This is something needed, especially if a parent or loved one has a family history of dementia or Alzheimer's.
You are also going to need to know where a lot of these things are. Chances are, your parents will have them in physical format, but a lot more are being placed in digital format. For the latter, I recommend having a master document that has all the passwords to important websites or cloud servers where the documents are stored. Digital records are gonna be a major help in the most dire of situations.
How do we have this conversation?
Now is the time to not mess around and wait. I understand that this is a topic that be sensitive and even upsetting. The key is to bring up the topic that doesn't avoid anxiety, but eases it. So my first piece of advice is how you approach it.
Rather then saying,
"Your getting old, we need to set up an estate plan so that were ready when you die"
Try saying something like.
"Nothing lasts forever. I want us to be ready for anything. By getting an estate plan prepared, it'll be less stressful in the long run. We won't have to think about it for a while"
Another way to approach it is to make it something you want for you more then they'll want it.
Rather then saying,
"I'm concerned for you and think you need this."
"My girlfriend and I have looked into getting an estate plan and think its something you should have too. It'll ensure my own piece of mind and prepare me for my own."
While I don't recommend scare tactics to encourage anyone to get an estate plan, it might not hurt towards the end of the conversation, like an exclamation point, to exemplify an importance because of _________________. A family history of dementia? A car accident that’s caused medical issues? Save those for the end, not the beginning of the conversation.
What if they won't listen?
I've seen this a lot. An adult or two will go to their parents and ask about an estate plan. And the only response is, "We don't talk about that yet!" or "Don't worry, your father and I aren’t going anywhere". There isn't a lot you can do. Pressing about it is something I don't recommend. It'll only create more anger and resentment. My best advice is to lay off it…for a little bit. Try approaching them again after a couple of months and ease into the talk. It just so happens that even if only a little progress can be made, it's still progress. Groundwork always leads to building.
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Written by Robert Nickerson
When we get to that point of creating an estate plan, we tend to figure out the collective feeling. What I mean exactly is the overall emotion everyone has about the situation. We might feel happy, sad, or even angry at the person whose estate is being represented. Usually the feeling is going to be mutual with everyone else. The circumstance on wealth and relationships are going to be a factor when thinking about the future. Though it's one thing to get an understanding on how everyone as a whole feels, its another when an individual has another opinion.
Every family is bound to have one person whose personal situation is questionable. Are they mentally capable of making their own decisions? Are they in a financially secure place? Do they have a substance abuse problem? Are they irresponsible with money? The good news is that all of these factors can be acknowledged within an estate plan.
I'll bet before you clicked on this link to read the article, you've already done a web search about those issues and might have even come across statements that you weren’t sure were fact or a hundred percent true. I'm going to go through a couple of myths surrounding "black sheep" family members and estate plans.
Myth 1: You have to divide your estate plan equally amongst your beneficiaries
This is NOT true. In fact, this is something I encourage depending on the family. Just because your want more of your assets to go to someone over the other doesn't mean your don't love that other person. A good example would be if you have someone in the family who is mentally disabled. They may require a larger share if they need a more secure position with their medical and caregiver expenses covered. Or there may be a situation you want to disinherit a beneficiary. That doesn't mean you don't agree with their choices. But perhaps someone in the family is starting a new business and needs the extra assets to get things moving.
Regardless of the reason for anything, dividing assets unequally should be explained before anything is set in motion. Though it also helps to have a documents that explains your decision.
This is also why I highly recommend checking your estate plan sporadically to see if you still want you beneficiaries to receive assets as you planned when the document was laid out.
Myth 2: I can't change my mind once I set up to have a beneficiary disinherited
This is NOT true. Like I said before, I recommend going back to your estate plan every couple of yours and thinking about everyone's position. Are they in a better place? Has something come up? Life is full of surprises and one of them may force a chance in how things are distributed.
Myth 3: You can't control things once your dead
This is NOT true….sort of. Once You've passed on, unless there's a new way to resurrect the dead, you yourself are gone from direct control. However, your estate plan gives the ability to see your wishes carried out. Does someone in the family need an incentive before they receive their distributed assets? You have the ability to create a distribution contingent (a clause that says they can receive something after they done something). This can range from unlocking funds after finishing college, and allowance if proven to be in rehab.
This goes back to the idea that not all distribution has to be equal. What this does do, is ensure that something needs to be done in order to receive an asset.
Myth 4: Trusts are complicated and a pain to control
As long as you have everything set with a good lawyer…then this is NOT true. Let's say that someone in your family has special needs and requires someone to look after his well being. A special trust can be created with someone being appointed a trustee that'll take charge of the responsibility. But if naming someone is too much of a burden, then naming a professional trustee is also an option. Yes, there are costs to a corporate trustee, but you also have to debate at what cost are you willing to stick to with that family member.
Though let's be honest, making these kinds of decisions are never easy. Just the thought of speaking to a lawyer about the future of someone's passing can make you uneasy and even depressed. But I can tell you now that its better to do this as soon as possible then wait until it's too late. Our law office can help guide you through this subject with ease and determine what action is best for your family. Click on the button below for more information or to contact us.
Written by Jill Roamer, J.D.
The disabled population likely experiences an amplified sense of vulnerability during disastrous happenings. The compounded risks encountered by the disabled during a catastrophic event are a real, and very serious, concern. A 2019 Act focuses on this hinderance and will attempt to bridge the accessibility gap for disaster response and preparedness for those living with disabling conditions.
Congressional Response to Potential Disasters
Earlier this year, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Actwas signed into law. Building upon the 2006 Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, Congress introduced the new bill with a subset committee focused on disability inclusion. It addresses the important issue of how to ensure the elderly and disabled populations are best cared for in a disaster, whether it be a natural disaster, a public health emergency, or a man-made disaster. In addition to creating a committee focused on how to best care for those with a disability during a disaster, the Act also enables military trauma care providers to train their civilian counterparts, creates a regional system of trauma care centers, and increases funding for a program that enables the health care system to plan for and respond to medical surge events.
The National Advisory Committee on Individuals with Disabilities and Disasters focuses on disability accessibility and inclusion for disaster preparedness and response efforts. The committee refers to the ADA definition of disability and is armed with a variety of critical members, amongst which are a minimum of two members being “non-Federal health care professionals with expertise in disability accessibility” in disaster scenarios; at least two “representatives from State, local, Tribal, or territorial agencies with expertise in disaster… [scenarios] …for individuals with disabilities”; and no less than two members generally experienced in disaster preparedness and response for those with disabilities.
The committee enhances the previous law’s section on At-Risk Individuals. Its goal is to “align preparedness and response programs or activities to address similar, dual, or overlapping needs of children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities, and any challenges in preparing for and responding to such needs.” The committee intends to provide advice and tactics for state preparedness and response to disaster scenarios.
Effects of a Disability on Disaster Preparedness and Response
Historically, the disabled population has experienced compounded hardships in response to disastrous occurrences. Socioeconomic status, accessibility hurdles, and complex medical needs have prevented many from receiving adequate aid during disasters. Providing access to disaster response efforts for the disabled population – an estimated 19.4% in the United States – is a real concern.
Thoughtful consideration must be made regarding accessibility obstacles. Consider the following:
Consider, too, that disasters are bound to cause significant, and disabling, injuries to a variety of individuals in affected regions – subsequently causing an upsurge in the disabled population. The sudden onset of a disabling condition is likely unfathomably shocking. Imagine how terrified an able-bodied person might be if they were to suddenly become paralyzed during a hurricane. Not only are these newly disabled individuals trying to cope with their new circumstances, they are also fighting the real possibility that they may be unable to reach or access services rendering aid.
Tips for Those with Disabilities to Mitigate Disaster HurdlesWhat can seniors and those with disabilities do to mitigate the potential hurdles and pitfalls associated with a disaster?
The implementation of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act is very important for our disabled population. Preparing for the unknown is a difficult endeavor, and all people should be included in the plan. The array of committee members strengthens the likelihood that all individuals will benefit from emergency preparedness and response efforts in the future, dread the thought, when or if disaster strikes.
Jeffrey C. Nickerson - Estate Planning Attorney - My Passion is Special Needs Planning!