One of the most interesting questions I get asked regularly is: “Do I really need an estate plan?” The knee jerk reaction I have, and probably most lawyers have, is YES! Of course you need an estate plan, everyone does. But before going through this in depth, I need to share a true story from my life to add some context to my answer.
Hanging Glasses: A Bad Experience With The Eye Doctor
When I was in my early 20’s I decided that it was time to have an eye exam. I had never had an eye exam before. Both my parents had glasses. Both my parents got glasses later in life. I could generally see fine, but I thought it might be worth it to see an eye doctor and get a good sense about the health of my eyes.
So I made an appointment with a clinic that my parents went to and had an examination. After I was strapped in the chair and my eyes were dilated the doctor looked at me with a smile and told me what he considered a joke. He said: “Do you know they say about eye doctors?” After stating I had no idea (I had never been to an eye doctor before or thought much about eye doctors really), he answered: “They are always trying to hang glasses on people.” He then went on to explain why exactly I needed glasses.
I didn’t buy glasses that day. I drove home and pondered the doctor’s words. There was something about his analysis that seemed off, His medical recommendation seemed to deal more with his need to sell glasses rather than what my needs were at the time.
I never went back to that doctor. I did not go back to an eye doctor for another ten years. Even now, I have a very mild prescription for eye glasses. I don’t need glasses to drive. I mostly wear them to look intelligent in professional settings.
Do You Really Need An Estate Plan?
I’m often reminded of that eye doctor and his joke when asked if an estate plan is necessary. Lawyers do tend to think that lawyers are needed in most situations. The instant reaction I have to the question posed is that every adult needs an estate plan. Not every plan is going to look the same, and there is a good chance that you may not need a very robust plan. The key is to look at what your principal goals are and what exactly you would like to protect.
Too often people think about estate planning as the process of managing and distributing property after you have died. While this is a critical component of the estate planning process, the question alone fails to address many key issues. The biggest issue being what happens if something occurs that prevents you from protecting yourself, but you remain alive.
The Will is a document for the dead. A Will does not come into play for the living. If you wish to avoid Guardianship proceedings, or if want to name the person who will manage your money and life for you when you are unable, you will need the appropriate legal documents together before tragedy strikes. Every person in this country should have at least this level of planning, unless the person is too young (under the age of 18) or already determined to be incompetent.
Crafting The Right Estate Plan
A part of me hates feeling like that eye doctor I have visited. I don’t want to push legal solutions on to people who don’t really need it. However, when it comes to estate planning, every adult in this country needs at least some level of planning. If you do not have anything in place right, call 920-471-0929 and schedule an initial consultation with Shanley Law LLC today. Even a basic plan can save you money and make things easier on the people you love if the worst happens.