The Heart Attack
A few years ago, I was rushed to emergency room by ambulance with an apparent massive heart attack. To have a doctor calmly (as I was being rushed into a waiting elevator with numerous wires attached to my body, and numerous medical staff surrounding me talking their “medical” language) tell you right to your face, “Mr. Newman, you either had or are in the midst of a massive heart attack and …” quite honestly, I do not remember much else of what he said. I do remember seeing all the plans, goals, and dreams I had for and with my wife and daughters began to fade and as they did, I remembered the promises I made to them but would not be able to keep. I began to think about their pain, their loss. Had I prepared enough for them? Was "I" living with my bags packed? It was truly the first time I ever felt regret, and completely helpless. Fortunately, after all the tests, it was discovered my heart was excellent condition, my arteries were clear, but I had contracted an infection in the sac around my heart. Serious and extremely painful, but not life threatening. I pray I never such feel pain, regret, and helplessness ever again!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States has a heart attack every 40 seconds. That means approximately 790,000 people have a heart attack each year. If you have recently been hospitalized for a cardiac condition or other near-miss medical event, then you too may be feeling that lack preparedness, the regret, and helplessness. One result of these feelings is a strong sense of urgency to protect your family, your business, and your legacy. Act on that feeling getting your estate planning done to before you go back to your routine. Here is how.
1. Draft a Will and Trust
Dying without a will can leave behind quite the mess for your family and will require a lengthy process involving the courts to administer your estate. Having a properly executed will not only simplifies the process but ensures you have control over where your assets go. Some people wrongly believe wills and trusts are just for wealthy individuals. But value does not always mean money. Often, our most treasured items are sentimental and thus priceless. Through this lens, we all have items of tremendous value either to ourselves or to others. In addition to distributing assets, wills are also necessary to appoint a legal guardian for minor children.
Depending on your circumstances, you may also benefit from a trust. A trust allows you to dictate who receives your assets and when. It also has the added benefit of allowing someone else to manage your assets during your lifetime if you are unable to, without court intervention. Since a trust can take many different forms, it is best to consult with your estate planning attorney to determine how best to structure your trust.
2. Complete Advance Directives
A time of crisis is worse time for you and your loved ones to have to make life changing decisions. A complete advance directives package gives you control over your end-of-life care. Designate a healthcare power of attorney to make medical decisions if you are unable. Complete a living will to address specific end-of-life decisions like life-sustaining measures. Lastly, appoint a financial power of attorney to handle financial matters in the event you are unable. Without these important documents, your family may be forced to go to court in order to have someone appointed to make these decisions for you. Do yourself and your family a huge favor, take care of these documents and decisions while you are healthy and vibrant. Then, discuss with them your wishes so they can be informed and prepared when the time comes.
3. Get Organized
Collect and organize important documents and account information by making copies of all essential documents and identifying any account information. Having all of this information in one centralized place will not only help you to get organized, but will also ensure you have all pertinent information easily accessible to the people handling your affairs. Suggested information may include:
social security card
titles or deed to real estate
insurance policy information (health, life, disability)
pension or retirement accounts
digital accounts with username and passwords (email, social media, online investments, Amazon, PayPal, eBay)
technology access (username and password access to computers, phones, tablets, etc.)
It is easy to want to put such a fearful event in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible. Trust me, I know. But do not let the sense of urgency fade away. Before such a moment passes, take the time to get your estate planning in order and save yourself and loved ones the stress that comes from being unprepared. If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at 301.892.2713.
Live with your bags packed!