How Estate Planning Can Reduce Stress
Let me ask you this question. What happens when you get stressed? For most people, the flight or fight response kicks in when we are in a stressful situation. And we have certainly experienced some stressful situations that affect our lives in the last decade: 9/11, financial crisis of 2008, and COVID to name a few. Wouldn’t it have been great if we had some foresight before this events happened? If so, we could have mades some plans to protect ourselves and our livelihoods. Well, hindsight is always twenty twenty. But, we all know death is certain and disability is a possibility – especially as we age. Death and disability are stressful and cause anxiety. But, unlike past events, estate planning can help prevent stress. So, let me show you how estate planning can reduce stress.
Estate Planning Equals a Plan of Attack
The best offense is a good defense. When we have a plan in place, we have built up a great defense. We have a plan of attack ready to go when life happens. And life does, and will, happen.
Anyone of us could suffer a stroke that leaves us disabled. Or, when we leave for a work, a car could hit us, causing us to suffer a traumatic brain injury. Or, we develop Alzheimers. Even if we experience no traumatic event, we are all going to die one day whether we like it or not.
Death and disability cause stress for our loved ones. After all, our loved ones must step in and make decisions for us. They may need to plan for our care; make life or death decisions; or plan our funerals. If you have no plan, your loved ones may agonize over whether they are doing what you wanted. On top of this agony, they are grieving and may even be angry. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to put my loved ones in this position.
So, if you are like me, then we need to develop a well thought out plan to help our loved ones in these tough situations. Specifically, you need a full estate plan. An estate plan is one that covers what happens when you die: who gets your belongings, who will be the person responsible for making those distributions, and how will your assets be divided. A full estate plan also covers your potential disability or inability to make financial and medical decisions on your own.
So what does a full estate consist of anyway? A full estate plan consists of a will and/or a trust, a durable power of attorney, a health care power of attorney and a living will. We will discuss each document more in depth.
A Will Alleviates Stress When You Die
A will is a document you create that determines what happens when you die. You name an Executor who is the person who will carry out your wishes you set out in your will. He or she will distribute your assets to your named heirs. Your Executor also will collect all of your assets. He or she will make sure all of your debts at death are paid or otherwise satisfied.
Within your will, you state who inherits from you. You name people you want to receive your property. You can also specifically disinherit people from receiving your assets.
By having a will, you reduce tension and arguments over who gets what after you die. Your loved ones will already be under a lot of stress when you die. Why not alleviate some of that burden by writing your will before you die?
Remove the Stress of Financial Insecurity
How many of you would agree that finances are stressful? Many people worry about money, paying bills and debt. Now imagine if you were disabled and unable to access your money? Pay your bills? I’m sure most of you would agree that would to be a good situation.
However, if you had created a Durable Power of Attorney; otherwise known as a Financial Power of Attorney, your bills would get paid. How? Well, when you sign a Durable Power of Attorney as part of your estate plan, you name a person of your choosing to handle your financial matters if you cannot do so. You also specifically state all the powers you are giving that person. Within the document, you can even state when the power of attorney is triggered.
Remove the Stress of Health Care Decisions
How many of you out there have opinions about your healthcare? I know I do. Now how many of you have thought about who would make health are decisions if you were unable to do so? Did your stress level just go up at that thought?
A Health Care Power of Attorney is a document you sign that authorizes a person of your choosing to make medical decisions for you in the event that you cannot communicate with your medical provider. Maybe you are unconscious. Or, maybe you have dementia. Whatever the situation, your healthcare agent can authorize medical treatment for you.
Within the document, you can specifically state the care you would live to receive. You can also limit your agent’s ability to authorize certain treatment for you. This planning takes the stress off your loved ones as they do not have to guess at what care you would have opted for had you been able. to do so.
Once you regain the ability to communicate with your medical providers, you resume taking control of your health care decisions.
End of Life Anxiety
Let’s face it, end of life decisions are not easy. We all want to believe we are going to die peacefully in our sleep. However, the reality is, most of us won’t. Our loved ones may be put in a situation where they have to decide whether or not to take life saving measures on your behalf.
What if you had a terminal illness and had reached the point of no further recovery. The doctors have determined that there is no further treatment or medication available for your condition. The prognosis is a short life span. Would you want life saving measures taken if your heart stopped beating?
What if you were in a vegetative coma with no possibility of coming out of the coma?
No, these are not easy topics to think about muchness say what we might want done. But, imagine how much more stressful making those decisions on your behalf would be for your loved ones. Think of the tension that could result from family arguments over what is best for you.
That is where the Living Will comes into play. Within your Living Will, you state your decision as to end of life decisions. You can specify what conditions you do not want life saving measures taken. You can even specify whether or not you will leave the final decision up to your health care agent knowing what you ideally want done.
Now I’m not going to lie to you and say that having a Living Will makes it necessarily easier for your loved ones. We generally do not like saying our final good-byes. However, most of us do not like to see our loved ones suffering. And, if our loved ones provide us with guidance as to their final wishes through a Living Will, we at least get peace of mind that we are doing the right thing.
If you would like more information about estate planning or would like to set up your own estate plan, please reach out to us. We would love to talk about helping you alleviate stress by having a well thought out estate plan in place.