Happy Valentine’s Day my friends! If you have someone you really want to be your emergency contact, the best gift you can give them for Valentine’s Day is a full estate plan, or you could offer to be the person named in their estate plan.
So here’s your Valentine’s Day assignment:
- Make a list of all the people you’d really and truly be willing to be an emergency contact person for, and show up to them, go to bat for them with the hospital or doctors, or their parents, or for their kids.
- Contact those people and tell them how much you love them, and invite them to name you as their emergency contact people, and then share this article with them so they can do the same for you and the other people they love in their life.
- Identify all the people you want making decisions for you (and your kids) if you cannot make them yourself, and start the process of creating a plan to ensure they won’t be dealing with a big mess, or review your plan to make sure it’ll work for the people you truly love
Make sure your plan is one that will really work. Most, unfortunately, do not. And your loved ones will only find out when it’s too late.
What does that mean? What does having a plan in place really look like?
It means that if you have only a very small bank account and no kids and no real estate or investments, you get an Advance Health Care Directive + a Durable Power of Attorney + complete the 5 Wishes document that tells people HOW you want to be cared for if you cannot care for yourself.
But, that’s only if you have little assets and no kids, and you are organized and efficient enough to actually do those things and get them done, and signed.
Most of us are not that organized, and will not get it done and signed, even if we know exactly what to do and how to do it.
We’re distracted procrastinators, and really should hire support to ensure we get it done.
My own long-time sister friend who wanted me to be her emergency contact never got around to doing it, then ended up in a coma and becoming a ward of her mother for years because we never got it handled legally.
And, I’m a lawyer who trains lawyers, and she was working for the Company coaching lawyers. It wasn’t that we didn’t know what to do. It was that we didn’t do it.
Big wake up call.
So this Valentine’s Day, what if you just do it? For realz.
Find a Personal Family Lawyer in your state (or even better in your neighborhood), contact them, ask them how to get a Family Wealth Planning Session on the books, how to get it for free even and if you can get educated to earn some credits toward a complete plan, and then hire them to help you create the plan that’s right for you and the people you love … and actually get it signed, legally. Because you care.
If you have kids, you need a full Kids Protection Plan®. Not just naming guardians in your will (as most lawyers will do because they are not properly trained to plan for families with minor children), or by choosing godparents. That’s not going to keep your kids out of the court process, if something happens to you while they are minors. And, trust me, you do not want your kids’ affairs tied up in court. That’s not love.
A full Kids Protection Plan specifies who would care for them both the immediate term, and the long-term if something happens to you. And it confidentially excludes anyone you know you would never want caring for your kids.
The second edition of my book Wear Clean Underwear (named as such because once you are a parent, wearing clean underwear alone is not enough, there’s important legal planning steps you need to take) is coming out on March 14th. In the meantime, you can get the first edition (still relevant) on Kindle for .99.
If you have assets that will go through court in the event of your incapacity or death, you need a full plan, and that plan needs to include an inventory of your assets that is kept up and updated over the years. And you likely also need a trust to keep your family affairs out of court.
That $1,500 plan that almost all lawyers who “do wills and trusts” will create for you is frankly insufficient. And certainly the documents you create online aren’t worth the paper they are written on.
It’s almost worse than nothing because you’ll think your estate planning is done, when in fact it’s only partially done.
And, that “estate plan” you paid $1,500 or even $2,000 for is most likely going to fail when your family needs it because it won’t be kept up to date, it won’t hold your assets properly, and it won’t have provisions to plan for and protect the inheritance you are leaving behind from your kids’ mistakes.
So now you’ve spent a couple thousand bucks to do “something”, but really you haven’t done much of anything and your family is going to pay the price.
It’s what happened to my family when my father-in-law paid $3,000 25 years ago to his lawyers in Florida at a fancy law firm, only for us to end up stuck in court dealing with his ex-wife after he died. All avoidable, if he had gotten the support we now provide through Personal Family Lawyer.
But back then, it’s what lawyers were taught to do. Now, it’s changing.
If you want a plan that will actually work, and covers your assets properly, and your kids, and more than just your financial assets — but includes your values, insights, stories and experience too — you invest a little more and work with a Personal Family Lawyer to get a plan that isn’t just a set of documents that you put on a shelf or in a drawer and never look at again.
One last piece. If the family you want handling things for you is “chosen family” instead of blood family, this is all even more important because they will have no standing in the eyes of the law when something happens to you, unless you do something now.
So, this Valentine’s Day, give the people you love a gift that will pay off for them many, many times over — the gift of taking care of your estate planning, in a way that will truly make their lives easier when something happens to you.
Because no matter how much we like to pretend death (or incapacity before death) isn’t coming, it is. For all of us. And your family can either have an easy time of it, or a big mess to clean up.
Happy Valentine’s Day.