How important is basic estate planning? True confession time for Kyle.
You see, from 1985 through 1989, I was a young Captain in the U.S. Army stationed in W. Germany (yes, Virginia, there were "two" Germanies just a few decades ago).
While there, my Gretchen was suddenly admitted to the emergency room at the 97th General Hospital in Frankfurt am Main.
Naturally, when I received notice of said event via "unsecured" military landline (no, there were no "cell phones") ... I rushed to her side.
Upon arrival, when I inquired of the duty nurse regarding the "situation" while Gretchen was in surgery ... I was informed that I did NOT have authorization to receive any information.
In fact, I had not prepared the same authority for Gretchen to have such authority for me.
This remains an embarrassing admission, nearly 30 years after the event.
[Yep, that is yours truly in full BDU "battle-rattle" on the left.]
Her question: "Captain Krull, don't you give the briefings on basic estate planning to incoming soldiers and family members ... and you haven't followed your own advice?"
Yep, this is really embarrassing.
However, now you know why I am such an advocate, no, a zealot, for "taking care of business" when it comes to all aspects of estate planning.
I have been there.
A fellow traveller named Craig Evans Carnick has been there, too.
And more recently.
When he accompanied his wife of 46 years to a medical procedure recently, he was initially denied access to information about her condition by the attending nurse.
In his own words, Carnick recalls that "[s]he (the nurse) ignored me, then asked my wife if it was all right to talk with me."
Things have not changed when it comes to medical information disclosures over the last 30 years.
Actually, they have become more restrictive.
This is not just a concern for spouses.
With many adult children putting off marriage and with elderly parents living longer, many Baby Boomers are caught in between (i.e., the “Sandwich Generation”) and not prepared to care for loved ones at either end of the spectrum.
This scenario was considered in a recent Chicago Tribune article titled “Checklist for updating, organizing estate planning documents.”
According to the Tribune, a new survey of 1,000 adults for www.caring.com reveals these startling facts:
- Some 55% of folks said their parents have a will or trust document;
- 25% of those 65 and older said they do not know where their elderly parents keep their estate planning documents; and
- 44% have no idea what is in those documents.
Those are some big numbers, friends!
The survey also noted that many respondents reported situations where parents passed away without leaving behind legal documents.
This has led to some sad stories about families having money tied up in court and not being able to pay the final bills and funeral costs of their parents.
And it is not just about the elderly parents.
The survey also revealed that very few families have health care directives for adult children.
This is a major issue for people with adult children who are away at school or living on their own as an unmarried adults.
What happens if they are in an accident?
The original article offered these tips to keep in mind when making proper estate plans:
- Take Five: Estate planning attorneys suggest that you update your will, trusts, powers of attorney, and health care directives at least every five years or when a major life event happens. Examples include when a new child or grandchild is born, when you are moving, beginning a new job, or are recently divorced. Note: My own rule of thumb is every two years. In fact, that is why we send a hard copy letter via first-class mail to each client in October of odd-numbered years reminding them to review their estate plans.
- Share the Secret: If you have estate planning documents, it is essential that you share the information with those who will be helping you as you get older. For example, your physician needs a copy of your health care directives.
- Get it Together: Many folks use binders for keeping important documents with notes on financial account information and passwords. While this is a great idea, the binders are usually locked away for safe-keeping. Keep the documents in an electronic format that can be accessed by your representatives when needed. In addition, make sure your originals can be located when needed!
Some estate planning attorneys also recommend designating trusts as retirement account beneficiaries, even though the accounts already might contain beneficiary designations.
However, since the Clark v. Rameker decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last June, every beneficiary designation for retirement funds needs to be revisited for tax and asset protection implications.
All of these matters can be very tricky. Engage the counsel of an estate planning attorney before taking action.
Do not hesitate to ask what the attorney has done in terms of his or her own estate planning.
You want to make sure you are working with a professional who "eats" his or her own professional "cooking" as I learned (almost three decades ago) the hard way.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: Chicago Tribune (May 10, 2015) “Checklist for updating, organizing estate planning documents”