Do an Estate Plan Your Way, Like John McCain

We lost two great Americans very recently: John McCain and Aretha Franklin. On the surface, they had great taste in music in common, but choose very different paths in their legacy planning. If you have been watching John McCain’s Funeral proceedings over the last few days, you may have heard that much of what was occurring was part of an estate plan made by the Senator, his wife and family. McCain closed out his memorial service in Arizona with Sinatra belting out “My Way” as his casket was carried out of North Phoenix Baptist Church. Such a bold move really is a testament to why it is important to make your own plans, even if it is painful. Read his farewell letter to America HERE.

“I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way”

Does Probate Equal Respect?

Contrast this to the late Aretha Franklin, the latest celebrity to pass without taking the time to plan her estate. Unlike Prince or others we have covered in the last year, Aretha had some advance warning.

Luckily, her family knew her well enough to give her an appropriate farewell (complete with ”gorgeous pumps” and crossed ankles) in Detroit, but her estate will be decided by the probate court locally.

Most likely her estate will be divided up among her children, but many parents realize that some children might need further protection or arrangements to see them through. They may also need immediate access to accounts to manage them in real time. Again, reasons to make your own plans official.

Most Adults Have No Plan, Which is a Mistake

An article in the Chicago Tribune this week says it best: “It seems incredible that a celebrity who knew that she was seriously ill did not get her affairs in order, but Franklin has plenty of company. According to a survey, only 42 percent of U.S. adults have estate planning documents, including a will. Shockingly, for those with children under the age of 18, the figure is even lower, with just 36 percent having an end-of-life plan in place,” writes author Jill Schlesinger.

Many people believe that because they don’t have a significant net worth, they do not need to worry. But estate planning is not just about money. As the name indicates, estate planning includes plans about how to transfer your assets (your “estate”) at death or incapacity. Did you catch that last word? Incapacity. Many people forget about this one. Not only should you plan how you want to distribute your estate at your death, but you should also plan how to manage your estate while you are still alive but unable to make your own legal decisions due to an incapacitating illness or injury.

The phrase “estate planning” can also be misleading because it encompasses much more than just planning for the management or transfer of one’s assets at death or incapacity. For example, your kids are not assets, but a thorough estate plan will nominate guardians of your choosing to step in if something unthinkable happens to you. Also, a good estate plan will include health care powers of attorney (along with a “living will”) that outlines things like: who you want to make health care choices for you and how you would like end-of-life decisions handled. Think of estate planning as a living, breathing thing. Something that will grow and evolve as your life circumstances change over time. [See Reasons to Update Your Plan.]

As we have repeated over and over, no one likes to deal with the idea of dying and death, but taking care of your estate should be a priority. Please reach out to us if we can be of service.