I recently accomplished a long standing goal to publish a book. My book is titled “Get Real: Planning for Life, Death and Disability”. The purpose of the book is to help people understand some of the realities of life and then to take control and plan for those realities. Let me explain a little bit.
One of easiest things to do in this world is to ignore the future and not just any future, our own future. It’s much easier to predict what will happen to other people. We can see with great clarity where they’re headed and the problems they’ll be facing. However, we’re just not very good at predicting what will happen to us. Dreaming, that is, dreaming about our future, whether this concerns our family, our future financial stability, or our continuing good health, that’s something we’re really good at.
However, when it comes to making specific plans about our own health concerns years from now or even our own mortality, there is a gigantic blind spot that we just can’t seem to see around. What is that blind spot? I have a couple of answers.
First, as difficult as this may be to accept, the statistics are extremely clear: the vast majority of us will die. (OK, all of us are going to die – some just haven’t come to terms with that reality yet.) So what? Well, if we can’t imagine this possibility, it’s really hard, if not impossible to plan for it, to plan for our spouse and our families and other loved ones.
Second, there is a reality that the majority of us will, at some point, deal with mental or physical disabilities associated with the aging process. As a society, one of the results of living longer is living with disabilities longer. In previous generations, our parents and grandparents didn’t deal so much with Alzheimer’s and other age related disabilities. Rather, they died at a younger age. We will face this reality and if not us personally someone close to us – a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, etc.
However, despite these realities, which make the news media every single day now, somewhere between two-thirds to three-quarters of all who read this do not have a written estate plan, in case of death. Even fewer have a written plan in case of incapacity. Getting Real is accepting these realities and their consequences, then taking steps to protect yourself, your family and your estate when these realities happen to you.
Some may be asking, “Why do I have to do something? Won’t someone else just take care of all of this for me?” Yes, someone else will take care of this for you. The Idaho State Legislature in 1974 adopted a plan to “take care of all of this for you” for people who haven’t or won’t make a plan for themselves. So why don’t you just use the government plan? It couldn’t be easier, right?
The quick answer, of course, is that the default government plan is just designed to “process” you in some efficient and routine way. It is not influenced by your true needs or individual preferences. When you choose to NOT declare your wishes, you become just another burden for the government to manage.
Those familiar with how the government operates will realize that the government does not handle differences among people very well. So the government will tend to “process” everyone in a similar way. Thus you will be subjected to the default “estate plan” – a plan that will be indifferent to any of your wishes, goals, preferences, or personal needs. But, don’t worry; you’ll be treated just like everyone else!
However, by enormous contrast, the plan that YOU design is all about you and your specific wishes and needs. With your own plan you are in control of what events trigger certain actions. You choose the people who will step in to manage your affairs - when you cannot. You decide what your managers can do and when they can do it. Your plan is all about your needs, your wishes, and your preferences. Each individually designed estate plan is just as unique as the individual whose needs are being addressed. The options are almost endless.
So, what’s the point? Take control. Do It Now! We all want to stay in control of our lives as long as possible and for that we must initiate a plan. When it comes to planning for the future, the sad fact is that every year we fail to plan we lose options. Wait long enough and the only option left is the government plan. Remember, good planning is no accident.
Mark Wight, founder and president of Idaho Estate Planning has been practicing Estate Planning and Elder Law for in the Treasure Valley for 30 years. He is also a part of Senior Matters Radio which airs Saturdays on KBOI 730 at 12:30 PM.
To request you own copy of “Get Real: Planning for Life, Death and Disability” as well as for more information on what we do and access to our blogs on Estate Planning & Elder Law go to IdahoEstatePlanning.com.