Christopher Bullock first uttered these words in the Cobler of Preston in 1716.
“Tis impossible to be sure of anything but Death and Taxes.”
Ben Franklin usually gets credit, but he was not the first, and certainly not the last. Jim Morrison famously wrote "No one gets out of here alive". And no one does. Death is the great equalizer. We all leave this life toes up.
In our society, we spend a tremendous amount of time avoiding the subject. We don't look forward to answering the question "what might happen when I die". Personally, I had a near miss last year. Doctors misdiagnosed me with the flu. I had pneumonia. They treated me with a cough suppressant which is the worst thing you can do for a pneumonia patient. By the time they properly diagnosed me I was starting to go septic. While I was laying in that hospital bed I thought "I have to come back from this, my house is a disaster!" I did and today my house is less of a disaster. Because when you die, someone has to deal with your living space, whatever that is. It can be a miserable task. In my mind the less hellish I can make that for my family the better. Since I got out of the hospital, bags of clothes I haven't worn in over a year have been taken to Goodwill. Truckloads have gone to the dump. While this isn't an article about organizing, it could be. And I still have a long way to go, but I am living a much less cluttered life.
Most of us don't get to choose when our ticket gets punched. I was minding my own business when a guy sat down next to me on a plane. He was sweating and coughing and three days later I had pneumonia. Over the years I have known people in their 40's who went to bed and never woke up. People in their early 50's who have suffered massive, fatal heart attacks. People who have died driving to work, riding their bike, watching the stars. I've seen random acts of God, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, tornados all end the lives of otherwise happy and healthy people. And I almost got my ticket punched just for taking a flight from Vegas to Phoenix. We. Just. Don't. Know.
So the question is, knowing that information, why do we not at least make some cursory plans for the one thing we all know we will do? It's really not that hard to do some estate planning. Take a couple of hours and set things up so that while your family is grieving your passing they also don't have to deal with attorneys and courts and appraisers and the government standing there with their hand out. They are going to probably have to deal with your stuff. I'll write about that in the next installment of this series. Your real estate is going to be a major source of aggravation. Billy Bob wants to live there rent free but his other brother Billy Ray and their sister from another mister Billie Jo want their money so they can go out and buy the dualie they always wanted and aren't you spinning in your grave yet? In truth, you knew your sisters kids were a bunch of knuckleheads and you really wanted your home to be donated to Habitat for Humanity and without specific instructions, that's just not going to happen. The thing is, it's your life. Your legacy, your way.
The State will divvy your stuff up according to a predetermined formula without regard for your wishes. If you do some estate planning in advance, your possessions and your wealth can be distributed to the people and organizations you want. Your wishes are fulfilled.
The first step is to determine what the best way to set up your estate. Are you a key employee? Are you self employed? Your death could mean the end of income for your family. Is that part covered? Do you need life insurance? Should you have a trust? Only an Estate Attorney can answer these questions for sure. Don't rely on a google search to properly provide for your loved ones once you're gone.
Every individual's situation is different, yet at the end of the day, no one gets out of here alive. I have extraordinary estate attorneys that I work with. I would be pleased to refer you or someone you care about to one of them. Don't let the government determine what happens to your life's work once you're gone.