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When Something Is Not Better Than Nothing- part 1

10.12.18

When Something is NOT Better Than Nothing—Part 1

Go online, and you’ll find tons of websites offering do-it-yourself estate planning documents. Such forms are typically quite inexpensive. Simple wills, for example, are often priced under $50, and you can complete and print them out in a matter of minutes.

In our uber-busy lives and DIY culture, it’s no surprise that this kind of thing might seem like a good deal. You know estate planning is important, and even though you may not be getting the highest quality plan, such documents can make you feel better for having checked this item off your life’s lengthy to-do list.

But this is one case in which SOMETHING is not better than nothing, and here’s why:

A false sense of security

Creating a DIY will online can lead you to believe that you no longer have to worry about estate planning. You got it done, right?

Except that you didn’t. In fact, you thought you “got it done” because you went online, printed a form, and had it notarized, but you didn’t bother to investigate what would actually happen with that document in place in the event of your incapacity or when you die.

In the end, what seemed like a bargain could end up costing your family more money and heartache than if you’d never gotten around to doing anything at all.

Creating a DIY will can lead you to believe that you no longer have to worry about estate planning. In the back of your mind, you might even promise that one day you’ll revisit and update your plan with something better, but chances are, having done “something” will lead you to put this off until it’s too late.

By doing nothing, on the other hand, at least you won’t be lulled into a false sense of security, and estate planning will still be at the top of your life’s to-do list, as it should be until you handle it properly.

Not just about filling out forms

Unfortunately, because many people don’t understand that estate planning entails much more than just filling out legal documents, they end up making serious mistakes with DIY plans. Worst of all, these mistakes are only discovered when you become incapacitated or die, and it’s too late. The people left to deal with your mistakes are often the very ones you were trying to do right by.

The primary purpose of wills and other estate planning tools is to keep your family out of court and out of conflict in the event of your death or incapacity. With the growing popularity of DIY wills, tens of thousands of families (and millions more to come) have learned the hard way that trying to handle estate planning alone can not only fail to fulfill this purpose, it can make the court cases and conflicts far worse and more expensive.

The hidden dangers of DIY wills

From the specific state you live in and the wording of the document to the required formalities for how it must be signed and witnessed, there are numerous potential dangers involved with DIY wills and other estate planning documents. Estate planning is most definitely not a one-size-fits-all deal. Even if you think you have a simple situation, that’s almost never the case.

The following scenarios are just a few of the most common complications that can result from attempting to go it alone with a DIY will:

● Improper execution: For a will to be valid, it must be executed (i.e. signed and witnessed or notarized) following strict legal procedures. Such procedural requirements are designed to prevent foul play and vary by state. For example, many states require that you and every witness to your will must sign it in the presence of one another. If your DIY will doesn’t mention that or you don’t read the fine print and fail to follow this procedure, it can be worthless.

● Court challenges: Before the assets covered in a will can be transferred to your heirs, the will must go through the court process called probate. During probate, creditors, heirs, and other interested parties have the opportunity to contest your will or make claims against your estate. Though wills created with an attorney’s guidance can also be contested, DIY wills are not only far more likely to be challenged, but the chances of those challenges being successful are much greater than if you have an attorney-drafted will.

● Thinking a will is enough: It is almost never the case that a will alone is sufficient to handle all of your legal affairs. In the event of your incapacity, you would also need a health care directive and/or a living will plus a durable financial power of attorney. In the event of your death, a will does nothing to keep your loved one’s out of court. And if you have minor children, having a will alone could leave your kids’ at risk of being taken out of your home and into the care of strangers, at least temporarily.

In many ways, DIY will planning is the worst choice you can make for the people you love because you think you’ve got it covered, when you most certainly do not.

Next week, we’ll continue with part two in this series on the hidden dangers of DIY estate planning. 

If you’ve yet to do any estate planning at all, have DIY documents you aren’t sure about, or have a plan created with another lawyer’s help that hasn’t been updated or reviewed in more than a few years, meet with us as your Personal Family Lawyer®. We can ensure that your family will be kept out of court and out of conflict if something should happen to you. Contact us today to learn more.

This article is a service of [name], Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

7 Processes to Complete With Your Parents Before They Die

In a recent Facebook post “Processes to go through with your parents before they die,” Daniel Schmachtenberger, founder of the Critical Path Institute, outlined seven simple exercises to use with your parents that can offer significant healing and completion for their life and yours.

While Daniel shared these processes in the context of the impending death of a parent, the reality is that your parents are heading toward death, even if there is no official diagnosis. And starting these processes when mortality isn’t immediately on the table is even better.

1. Help them make a timeline of their life

Create a timeline of all the big events in their life, starting with birth and their earliest memories up to the present. This is a great way to get to know them even better while you still can. Recalling their life through these stories can help them harvest the gifts, relive the good times, and identify any areas that still feel unresolved.

There are apps for creating timelines, but it’s easily done with pen and paper. Create the timeline by writing “birth” on the far left of the page, and draw a horizontal line going towards “death” on the far right. Experiences are placed on the line chronologically in the order they occurred. Positive experiences are depicted as vertical lines going up from the horizontal line, and difficult experiences as lines going down. Write short descriptions to correspond with each experience.

One way to help prompt memories is to ask questions about different people, places, and things from their past: romantic relationships, jobs, and places they lived. Going through old photos, letters, and music can also trigger meaningful memories.

When documenting their life events, the positive experiences can simply be recalled and enjoyed. For the negative ones, you can ask them what they learned from the experience and write that lesson in the description. In this way, you can find beauty and meaning in all of it.

2. Relationship healing

To foster healing in your personal relationship with them, focus on three areas:

● Peacemaking: Forgive them for any way they hurt you, and help them forgive themselves. Apologize for the ways you hurt them. You want to ensure that neither of you feels any residual pain (resentment, guilt, or remorse) in the relationship.

● Appreciation and gratitude: Write them a letter detailing everything you learned from them and all the positive experiences you had together. Go deep within to discover all they did for you, really appreciate it, and use the letter to help them feel your appreciation. Pinpoint any of their virtues you hope to embody most in your life and share that commitment with them, so they know they’ll live on through you once they’re gone.

● Reassurance: It’s common for parents to resist leaving you over concerns for your future well-being. Reassure them that you are alright, will be alright, and it’s okay for them to go. Using estate planning to help them get their affairs in order is a major part of this.

3. Family healing

If possible, help other family members go through the above healing process with your parents. Help your dying parent make peace with everyone in their life, even if some individuals can’t speak directly with them. Reassure them that you’ll help take care of those loved ones who are in the most need.

4. Wisdom gathering

Ask them for life advice on anything and everything you can think of. As the old African proverb says, “Every time an old person dies, a library burns,” so make sure to write down or record as much of their personal wisdom as possible.

5. Bucket list

To make the most of the time you have left, ask them if there’s anything they really want to experience before they go, and fulfill as many of these bucket-list items as you can.

6. Help them see how they touched the world

In addition to documenting the positive impact they’ve had on your life, help them inventory all of the meaningful ways they’ve touched the lives of others. You want them to clearly see all of the beauty and meaning their life has brought to the world.

7. Help them be at peace with passing

While the above steps can help bring them peace, if they experience any fear of death, do your best to help them move through that. When death comes, you want them to be ready to greet her as an old friend.

If they’re fond of a particular religion or spiritual practice, you can recite their favorite verses, hymns, and/or prayers. Or they might find comfort in hearing their most beloved poems or songs. Silent or guided meditation is often helpful as well. But sometimes, simply offering them your loving presence and holding their hand is enough.

We are exceedingly grateful to Daniel for sharing these practices. If you’d like to share them with friends or family, you can either share this article from us or share Daniel’s note directly here.

Preserving your family’s intangible assets

The life stories, lessons, and values that come from these final conversations can be among the most precious of all your family’s assets. And to make sure these gifts aren’t lost forever, we’ve developed our own process, known as Family Wealth Legacy Passages, for preserving and passing on these intangible assets.

Indeed, we consider such legacy planning so important, this service is included with every estate plan we create. Using a series of helpful questions and prompts similar to the exercises Daniel outlines, we’ll guide you to create a customized recording in which you share your most insightful memories and experiences with those you’re leaving behind.

What’s more, using Family Wealth Legacy Passages, you can ensure these life lessons are documented and preserved well before you and/or your loved ones are close to death. And because it’s an integral part of our planning services, you won’t have to do everything on your own—we’re here to support you the entire way.

Legacy planning

Though estate planning is mainly viewed as a way to pass on your financial wealth and property, when done right, it also enables you to preserve and pass on your true legacy: your memories, values, and wisdom. And it can also be a source of overall healing in the family. With the right support, having these all-important final conversations doesn’t have to be intimidating or awkward at all.

In fact, with as your Personal Family Lawyer®, the entire estate planning process can put your life and family relationships into a much clearer focus and ultimately be an incredibly uplifting experience for everyone involved. Contact us today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session.

This article is a service of Jill B. Singer, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. 

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To Live a Happier Life Start Thinking About Death Now

10.5.18

To Live a Happier life, Start Thinking About Death Now

Want to know a proven way to live a more fulfilling life?

All you have to do is fully accept the fact that one day you’re going to die.

“I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.” -Upajjhatthana Sutta

The unavoidable nature of death is a basic tenet found in every religion. Indeed, the acceptance of death is so important in Buddhism that “impermanence,” or the fact that everything born eventually dies, is at the top of the Buddha’s list of the three universal characteristics of existence.

Before religious practice, Tibetan Buddhists chant, “The whole world and its inhabitants are impermanent. The life of human beings is like a bubble. Death comes without warning; this body too will be a corpse.”

Such teachings may seem morbid, but they’re actually designed to awaken you from denial and inspire you to fully appreciate life because you never know when it will end.

“How sad it is that most of us only begin to appreciate our life when we are at the point of dying.” -Sogyal Rinpoche

Numerous individuals have discovered that contemplating and accepting their own mortality is a powerful source of happiness. It may seem counterintuitive, but this isn’t something only found in religious teachings; it’s also been demonstrated by modern science.

Countless healthcare professionals report that people facing terminal illness often experience an incredible sense of peace and fulfillment in the days and weeks before they die. Many of them describe the acceptance of death as a life-changing event, confessing they never knew what it meant to live until they knew they were going to die.

The same is true for many who undergo a near-death experience (NDE). After staring death in the face, they report that their lives have much greater meaning. They frequently make dramatic life changes because they know without a doubt that any day, even today, might be their last.

“It is only in the face of death that man’s self is born.” -St Augustine

You’ve undoubtedly heard the key to happiness is to be fully present in each and every moment. This advice is also derived from acceptance of death. By accepting that death is inevitable, we’re inspired to embrace every second of our lives with more gratitude and joy because we know that our existence is so fleeting.

If you’ve been avoiding thinking about and preparing for death, you may be missing out on an incredible opportunity. What all of these experiences show us is that death is an essential part of what makes life so sweet.

One of the biggest steps in accepting death is to prepare for it with proper estate planning. And proper estate planning is needed, regardless of how big or small you think your estate is, because no matter what, your family is going to have to handle whatever you have when you’re gone.

Indeed, facing life’s greatest fear head-on and using it as an opportunity to protect and provide for your family is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and those you love.

If you’re ready to begin truly living your life, start by working with us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to properly plan for the inevitability of death. Contact us today to get started by scheduling a Family Wealth Planning Session.

This article is a service of Jill B. Singer, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.