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Why putting off getting Your Estate Plan in order is a mistake and can cost your family.

A very personal story about why having an estate plan in place is so important.

This is Barbara, and she was an amazing human. The best you could have ever met.

Let’s be honest. This is something that all of us want to put off.

No one wants to talk about these hard decisions and the reason we have to make them.

But they are necessary. They are needed. And now you have the opportunity to learn why and how to get it done.

I was the caretaker for my little 92-year-old neighbor (but she was more like a mother to me and helped raise me).

She didn’t have any family to speak of and I was it to help her in her later years. Luckily, we got her estate plan and revocable living trust in place years before and when she started to decline, I was able to step in and handle her affairs for her. With the Powers of Attorney documents, we had in place, I was able to take care of her bills, make sure her house was in order and was able to take her to the doctor and advocate for her care. When she was no longer able to stay safely in her home, I was able to arrange in home care and ultimately a full-time home placement for her.

When she peacefully passed, I was able to grieve her loss. I wasn’t having to scramble to file a petition with the court. I wasn’t having to send out notices or figure out how to have them published in the newspaper. Her affairs were kept private, as she wanted.

The legal industry is seriously outdated (not to mention rude!). It is inconvenient, too expensive and customer service is basically non-existent. This is both with lawyers and the courts. They are all overworked and understaffed. You are just a number and no longer a person.

I was able to take care of all the necessary things for her right away. I didn’t have to wait. I didn’t need to have the court approve my actions. I didn’t have to cover expenses and then wait for reimbursement. I didn’t have to hire an attorney and make sure they were handling these things the right way and in a timely fashion.

I was able to make sure she, and her affairs, were taken care of immediately. This was only possible through her estate plan. I wasn’t technically related to her, so without those documents, my hands would have been tied. And without any reliable family members, she more than likely would have become a ward of the state. The thought of that still makes me feel sick to my stomach.

I tell you this to impart the importance of getting these things in order. How easy (paperwork wise) it was to handle all of her affairs, to make sure she was safe and taken care of. That no random “family” could come in a take what wasn’t theirs or what she would not want them to. I was able to fulfill her wishes and not that of the state if she didn’t have anything in place.

Worse, what would have happened if she didn’t have her estate plan in place? I would still be going through the probate process today. Would I be fighting her estranged family members who only came out of the woodwork when they figured they could get something and never bothered to check in on her or cared about her at all when she was alive?

This is why I am so passionate about estate planning (weird I know). I want to make these basic legal services more accessible to everyone and make the information and resources I had access to through law school more widely available for the everyday person. I want everyone to be able to create their own estate plan without having to trudge down to a stuffy lawyer’s office, be talked down to, and spend thousands of dollars for the same documents (this is because in most states these documents and language contained in them are already set by law). Et voila, here we are!

So that’s my story, what will yours be?

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