Today SevenPonds speaks with Stacy Turner, Esq., an attorney in San Rafael, California who specializes in estate planning, particularly as it relates to minor and special needs children. Stacy also works with clients to help them plan for their long-term care needs.
Debra: Hi, Stacy, and thank you for your time. What are the things one has to consider besides finances when doing estate planning?
Stacy Turner: Hi, Debra. There are several other issues to consider besides managing assets. One is to arrange guardians for minors or special-needs children. Guardians are people who can provide care if you are incapacitated or if you die.
The other is to prepare an advance healthcare directive. This document allows you to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions for you if you can no longer make those decisions yourself. It also allows you to specify your wishes for your own healthcare and what kind of funeral arrangements you would like. Some of these forms are very brief. Others are much more complex with extra space to cover your healthcare wishes in a variety of situations.
Debra: How would you go about choosing a guardian or a healthcare agent?
Stacy: Very carefully! Too many people make the mistake of selecting the people they are “supposed” to pick or choosing people who might feel insulted if they are not selected. Instead, think about the people who you believe will be best suited to the task. Have conversations with these people. These can be hard talks to initiate because money and death are both considered taboo subjects in the American culture. Still, it is important that you have explicit discussions so you can rest assured that your wishes will be respected.
Debra: Why is it so important to make your wishes clear while doing estate planning?
Stacy: Because if you die or are critically ill or injured, your loved ones will be flooded emotionally. Thinking logically with all those emotions coursing through you is difficult, to say the least. If your loved ones don’t know what you want, they may make decisions based on their wants and needs instead of yours. Situations like this can lead to family quarrels that last a lifetime. Furthermore, if you never expressed your wishes about the end of your life, the outcome may be far from what you had hoped. Your child, for instance, may end up in state custody and your assets may be managed by a relative you never liked or trusted.
Debra: Do you have any other thoughts about estate planning?
Stacy: Yes. It’s always a good idea to name at least one successor to your financial or healthcare agent. That way, if the first person you’ve selected can’t or won’t perform the duties, your wishes will still be respected. It’s also important to review your documents every few years to ensure that your wishes or circumstances haven’t changed. Finally, remember that estate planning is absolutely vital to make sure your wishes are respected when you are gone. It isn’t an easy process, but it is very, very necessary.
Debra: Stacy, thank you so much for your time and for all the good information you offered.
Stacy: Thank you, Debra. I enjoyed talking to you.
Join us for Part Two of our interview with Stacy next week.