I admit that I am a person who always makes New Year’s resolutions. I don’t feel badly that there are some that have been on the list for many years. I believe that just because I haven’t been successful doesn’t mean I should forego the opportunity to recommit.
As an estate planning attorney, I fervently support people who have delayed strategic financial planning for legacy creation to recommit to taking the steps to create, protect and transfer wealth so that their legacy is one that they are proud of. I believe that we should be committed as individuals, families and communities to develop a position of economic strength. The stronger the individual is the stronger the family is. The stronger the family is, the stronger the community is.
We need to do better. Each year it seems that I spend more time fighting for individuals who have been taken advantage of during the diminished state. Because there was no plan for safeguarding asset during vulnerability there was the opportunity to take money and in a number of cases, homes, from people who were unprotected. I often give presentations where I ask people to consider planning for incapacity. No one wants to think about the circumstance when he or she cannot make his or her own decisions nor do things for her or himself. Yet, not planning doesn’t negate the possible need. One of my favorite adages is that it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. That goes for a coat, money or an estate plan.
When we are vulnerable and need to have support to manage our financial affairs or health decisions we need to be thoughtful about to whom we are giving that authority and responsibility to. Waiting until it is needed maybe too late to put in safeguards.
I counsel people without children to think deeply about those friends and family members who have lived their lives with integrity, compassion and responsibility. Those folks are great candidates in service. Trust is the greatest consideration that we should factor in identifying someone to act in your stead.
I counsel people with children to think carefully before appointing their child to act in their stead. Do not assume that the child will step up to the role and act as you would hope they would. Be honest with yourself and see how that child has acted in situations where integrity was required. How did he act when he believed no one was looking?
As a family we need to do better in planning to position our children’s children to have opportunities that we did not have. We need to be thoughtful about the possibility of not just leaving an inheritance but how to protect our assets in case of disability. It is painful for me to work with families who have to sell their family home so that the liens that have been placed on them can be satisfied. It is painful for me to see children lose their family home due to reverse mortgages because there was no plan. We have the capacity to do better.
We can strategically endow the colleges and universities that serve our children so that they are better empowered to take leadership roles. We can create a foundation that continuously gives to our houses of worship and community organizations so that it relieves a bit of the burden that raising costs and greater need provide. We can come together to strengthen the cornerstones of the community to stand strong and build up future generations.
We must commit to do and be better even if we have delayed. Collectively we are much stronger than any of us is individually.