Whether you’re in your thirties or your sixties, growing older is a part of life. It can happen so gradually that it may seem to sneak up on you. Pause now to consider your future and the critical planning required for growing old gracefully. Cicero, Roman orator and statesman (106-43 B.C.), claimed that it is just poor judgment to neglect the recognition of our aging process and eventual death.
We may acknowledge that we age, but few are eager to anticipate it and make strategic decisions that will save their families time and money when what they want to focus on is helping you get better. Face it – death is awkward. The decisions required by our aging are numerous, daunting and painful. Half of American parents have no will to specify who gets whatever is left of their savings and other assets. Those who perish without a will are said to die intestate, and the state decides how to distribute their property.
I use the concept of a three-legged stool to help my clients remember the critical components of estate planning. As mentioned above, the first leg is to develop your will. The second leg involves choosing whom to appoint, as your durable power of attorney, to manage your affairs if you are temporarily or permanently unable to do so. Identify a person whom you consider to be competent to administer your financial and other matters. That person should also have the capacity to do so.
Managing someone’s affairs is time-consuming. You also want the person you assign as durable power of attorney to be reliable, not likely to shrink from the task when you need them the most. Once you’ve worked through these aspects, talk to them to see if they will accept the responsibility, and on what terms. If you ignore or choose to avoid these conversations, someone will have to go to court to have a guardian or conservator appointed for you.
The third leg involves two elements. When you prepare an advance health care directive, you specify to your doctors the forms of treatment that are acceptable to you, and the effort to be expended to keep you alive. It is important to take the additional step of appointing a person as your durable health care power of attorney to talk with the doctors and make decisions for you if you are unconscious or in a coma. This person could be the one you appoint in the durable power of attorney, or it could also be someone else.
“Everyone hopes to reach old age, but when it comes, most of us complain about it. People can be foolish and inconsistent.” – Cicero
To read more of “Cicero on Growing Old,” click here. The article appeared in Notable & Quotable by the Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2016. To read the new translation by Philip Freeman of the ancient classic, click here.
Contact me for help in preparing for the inevitable. There is much to discuss before we meet with a lawyer to prepare the legal documents. I will guide you through the conversations and help you cope with the emotional aspects.