The following is an article from the November 2019 issue of "Get Your Ducks in a Row" Carolina Family Estate Planning's free newsletter. You can read the rest of the issue, as well as back issues of our newsletter online at www.carolinafep.com/library/newsletters/ or subscribe for free at www.carolinafep.com/newsletter.cfm
"Indecision is the leading cause of roadkill…” glared a subject line in my inbox recently. The email sent out by one of my coaches* to myself and some colleagues, got my attention. In the days since reading that email, that arresting title has remained lodged in my head. You see, we witness indecision at Carolina Family Estate Planning on an almost daily basis.
I am a firm believer that each of us has the power to mold and improve our futures for the better. The first step starts with having a clear vision of what you DO want and what you DON’T want. Only then can you begin taking measures to make it so. And that’s the exact reason why many people come to see us. They understand that it’s incumbent upon them to take control of their own future well-being and their family’s future well-being.
But, every now and then, someone will leave our office without making a decision to take action. They’ll tell us that they want to go home and “think about it.” Perhaps they’re overwhelmed or need some time to process internally. But we all know that life has a way of getting in the way. They put off making the decisions necessary to execute on making an estate plan. They put it off...and put it off longer...and then a little longer still.
How do we know? Because we follow up with these people. We know that one of the ways we help people is by helping them to make a decision to get started. Sometimes we’ll check in 6 months or 12 months later to find that they still haven’t done anything about their planning. We’ve seen people fall ill or die without having completed their planning. It’s excruciating to watch.
Here’s the thing: inaction and indecision ARE a decision--a decision to do nothing. In the words of John F. Kennedy, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”
In the past week alone, I have met with three different individuals. In each case, our conversation can be summed up as follows:
Jackie: If you were to have a health event or long-term care event, have you considered how you would pay for care or what your care plan would be?
Client: Oh no. I don’t really want to get into that. I plan to stay in my home. I’m never going to a nursing home.
Jackie: Sure, I understand that, but if that’s your wish, you are the best person to be an advocate for yourself and put together a plan that reflects your care wishes and contains a plan for how to pay for in-home care.
Client: Well, for now my plan is to just take care of myself and hope for the best. (Or a common alternate response is some vague statement or reference to “just take me out in the woods and shoot me” or similar, to which I then regularly have to remind people that: (1) That’s not realistic because if you’re incapacitated you won’t have the wherewithal to do it; and (2) it’s illegal.)
The reality is that these are all avoidance mechanisms. Most people can’t imagine themselves having a major medical event or needing long-term care. Or, they are superstitious and think that just by talking about it, it will make it so (the same way many people avoid estate planning or life insurance because they think it means they’re going to die… Newsflash: we’re all going to die someday!).
Having worked with many clients and families during times of crisis, here’s what I wish more people understood: Not having a long-term care plan increases the likelihood that you will end up in a nursing home or assisted living facility. And in some cases it’s unavoidable--either for your safety or for the safety of those around you. (I know someone who had her mother with Alzheimer’s move in with her. One night she woke up to her mother standing over her holding a butcher’s knife because Mom was confused and thought her daughter was an intruder.)
Failing to have a plan also places tremendous stress and financial burden on your family. One study found that caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers. Another study reported that 40% of Alzheimer’s caregivers die from stress-related disorders before the patient dies. A MetLife study found that the average total financial impact to a family caregiver is $303,880 between lost wages, lost Social Security and pension benefits (due to the lost wages and years out of the workforce), and out-ofpocket
So at the very least, if you won’t make the decision for yourself, do it for those you love. As the holiday season approaches, I implore you: One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your family is a real plan. Now is a great time to get started so you’ll be able to complete your planning with your family before the end of the year and head into the holidays feeling comfortable and secure. Plus, it gives you the option of reviewing your plan with your loved ones over the holidays.
In the words of our Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin (a popular guy around here lately), “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” We're coming up on your last chance to get your planning done before the end of the year. We’d love to help you obtain peace of mind and build a more secure future by building a plan for a better life. To get started, give us a call at 919-443-3035.
*I believe strongly in practicing what we preach. Just as we advocate that our clients have an experienced professional guide and mentor them during the planning process, we have our own guides and mentors to help us to continue to grow as leaders in our community and to help us continue to provide a first-class experience for our clients.