In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to a prominent French scientist named Jean-Baptiste Leroy, and today, we still may quip to a friend one of the most well-known lines from that letter – “[…] in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” And while we joke about this certainty, it remains the one formidable opponent against which no human will stand. But the beauty of this certainty is the ability to plan ahead. But what exactly makes planning your estate so important? Well, we’re glad you asked.
When confronted with the idea of an estate plan most people think only of death. However, when you create an estate plan with an experienced attorney, you should be working through the challenging scenarios that can occur before death. As attorneys, we like to call these the “what if” scenarios.
What if a car accident leaves me in a coma? What if I have suffered from a stroke so my mind is not functioning normally? What if an injury leaves me unable to communicate, but I’m expected to recover soon?
When asking what if, lots of other questions naturally rise to the surface like, “Who will pay my mortgage and bills?” “Who will make medical decisions for me?” “Who will care for my children until I am better?” While difficult to ask, these questions need answers. That’s what your estate plan does. It answers some of life’s most important questions using four important documents: a will, a power of attorney, a health care power of attorney and a living will. Your individual circumstances may require more, but these four documents are foundational to this advanced planning.
The most important reason for completing your estate plan is to provide a measure of peace that simply cannot be attained otherwise. While the last year has shown us so much, it definitely clarified the importance of preserving mental health in an oftentimes chaotic world. As humans, when we face a difficult situation directly and do so with a well-devised plan, we gain some of the peace necessary to a life well-lived. The stress and anxiety so often associated with being unprepared simply dissipates. Instead, we rest easy knowing we have asked the hard questions. We looked ahead, we developed a plan, and we are ready. In doing so, we preserve not just our own peace but gift it to those whom we love the most. And that’s one certainty we can all live with today.