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  • Writer's pictureJenny Rozelle, Host of Legal Tea

Current Trends - Trigger to Do or Update an Estate Plan - Episode 149


Hey there, Legal Tea Listeners –This is your host, Jenny Rozelle. Welcome back for another episode today! The intro may have sounded different – my recording platform switched up on me and I didn’t like the new stuff, so I totally switched platforms. I kind of like this one better anyway as it has more capabilities on the back end – nonetheless, still me on this side! You haven’t gotten rid of me yet!

So, today is a “current trends” topic where we talk about things going on currently that are relevant and pertinent to my estate and elder law world, and/or maybe things I’ve seen on the news or stumbled across on social media. Well, on today’s “current trends” episode, we’re going to talk about, what I am going to call, “triggers” to do an estate plan – that is, most of us know that estate planning is important, but it usually stays on the to-do list for a long, long time until SOMETHING happens. Since we’re heading into summer time and when kids are out of school, this is the time of the year that more people are on-the-move, including going on vacations and things – and it’s also when my office seeks a slight uptick in estate planning. When I was thinking about this episode, I was thinking about vacations being a “trigger” but figured I’d just expand the topic to the most popular triggers I see. So, let’s get started … and oh, you need to make sure you tune in for the ENTIRE episode because I have a bit of a special and fun announcement at the end…so stay with me here!

1.     Death in the family – especially immediate family

I was talking to someone just yesterday who pulled me aside at an event and wanted to “ask a legal question.” Long story short, she had a death in the family and it caused her to realize how her and her husband have nothing estate plan-wise in place. So, that’s what I mean – usually, not always, but usually, people don’t leisurely say, “Today is the day I’m going to call an estate attorney – I can’t wait to talk about incapacity and death!” Sometimes, that actually does happen – and if that’s you, I love you!

Like this example I just shared, experiencing a death is definitely a trigger. I’m sure it’s that life gets busy, days/weeks fly by, and then something like that … jolts us back to reality. Like, “Oh … well that could happen to me too.” It’s scary to think like that, but it’s reality. This isn’t a surprising thing to say – but none of us are escaping death. It’s not an “if” – it’s a “when.” This “trigger” most often happens when it’s someone super near and dear to someone – it could be a parent (in the example I just shared … it was her Mom), it could be a sibling, or even a friend. Death impacts people, for sure, and one of the impacts I see from my seat, is that it causes people to look at themselves and say, “What if that happened to me? Is my family protected?” So, this one is definitely a trigger to either DO an estate plan or UPDATE their estate plan.

2.     Health event or health scare

Similar to that first trigger, this one jolts people to. Unlike the first one, sometimes the health event or health scare happens to a family member or dear friend, but sometimes it happens to the person … like you. And that scares the you-know-what out of them. A couple recent examples of this that I’ve seen are … we recently helped a young (in their 40s) couple where the husband has been diagnosed with skin cancer. It’s not super late stage, but it’s not good either. He’s starting treatment here soon. That scared them – and now they are getting their estate plan done.

Another example is a couple, where the husband’s mother recently had a massive, serious health scare – and ended up having to get a kidney transplant. Things were dicey for a while with the Mom (as in, they didn’t think she was going to survive) – however, fortunately Mom got the kidney transplant and has since totally recovered. Going through all of this really caused the son (and his wife) to want to get their plan done … it was eye-opening to say the least.

3.     Buying a house, starting a family, etc.

I’m going to call this one “big life event” trigger. Buying your first house, starting a family, etc. are huge life events that usually cause people to stop themselves and say, “Oh gosh – I have more ‘at stake’ now and should probably get my ducks in a row!” Which, to their credit, is really darn true. Buying a house is an asset! Having a family means you have other humans to care about … like, what happens to them if something happens to you? It’s funny … sometimes, when we finish up helping someone that fits this category, they’ll often say, “Man! I feel like such an adult now!” What’s the hashtag …#Adulting right? Well, news flash – you’re right. You are totally adulting and now, it’s time to get an estate plan done. Interestingly, when big events like this happen, those people usually do start thinking about, “okay what happens to this new asset or my humans if something happens to me?” Valid question!

4.     Divorce – in the family or yourself!

I think many of us have experienced how emotional and how usually-hostile divorces can be – so because of the high emotions, I will often hear from clients when their kids or beneficiaries go through a divorce. They’ll say something like, “I want to make sure that my grandchild’s biological Dad’s slimy little hands can’t get his hands on my money!” So, we’ll help people walk through their options to accomplish that. OR, I also will see people bust down my office door shortly after a divorce … or even, immediately when a divorce is filed. Like I said, because emotions are usually really high, they often want to make sure their spouse has NO authority to make health care decisions for them, financial decisions for them (if something were to happen to them), and then, once the divorce is final, they want to make sure their former spouse has NO ability to get anything – so again, we’ll help those individuals figure out their best options as it relates to doing or updating their estate plan.

5.     Trip or vacation coming up – especially a “big one” or one without kids

I guess this is more of a fun, positive one – I see people finally get their estate plan done prior to either a big trip (like going outside the United States) or a trip “without the kids.” Think, like Mom and Dad of a young family are going on a fun anniversary trip to the Caribbean or something. They will get worried something happens to them … leaving their kids exposed and not protected.

So, a little on this – I have had people reach out to my office just a couple weeks before leaving. That’s really not enough time. Ideally, it’s something you should start looking at and doing months before – that way, if you preferred type of estate plan takes longer than a few weeks to do and create (say, a Trust for example), you will have plenty of time to do things the right way. I’ve seen people wait too close to their departure … and push forward with doing a basic plan to get “something on paper” … which is fine and dandy, but sometimes a “basic plan” ends up not being preferred, then they’re left with “okay, we’ll do a basic plan now” then come back and do the “RIGHT/BEST plan when we get back.” That’s so inefficient for them (I mean, we’re going to be at the office … so not really inefficient for us!) … but it could result in additional legal fees due to having to revise the “basic plan” to get it to be the “right/best plan.”

I’d recommend contacting an estate attorney as soon as you decide to book the trip – even if it feels SO FAR out, then we’ll have plenty of time. Or, even if it feels like there’s not enough time, then we can work some magic and, like I said, at least try to get something really basic in place for you. Basic is better than nothing!

Now, on this topic … here comes my special announcement! Are you ready? Well, I myself am going on a really big trip for 2 weeks. I’m heading to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – and I am taking my awesome 16 year old nephew. One of the best things I’ve ever done was do a program called Semester at Sea – where I lived on a ship, yes you heard that right, sailed the world, and it was when I was in college, so I took college courses. I went to a whole slew of different countries. It was amazing to truly … see the world. My nephew’s school is offering students to go on voluntary trips abroad – and since traveling is one of the best things I have ever done, I hope to do the same for him. He’s a young kind from rural Indiana – we’ve got to show him there’s a lot more out there!

So, I bring this up because, if you’re a faithful Legal Tea Listener, you know that I don’t work too far ahead on these episodes – there’s a method to my madness. I’m sort of in scramble mode now (as we leave here in just over 2 weeks) … I have people wanting to meet with me before I’m gone … so I keep squeezing things in spaces that I don’t really have! Then, my weeks AFTER my trip are starting to severely book up. Something I do really well is stop and look at the writing on the wall. I can tell that I’m going to start getting stressed about time and leaving – and that stress will carry post-trip getting caught up. Because of that, for the next FOUR weeks, they will technically be repeat episodes. I’m going to rerecord them so they “flow” better .. but all four have been done before. Granted, the four, I pulled from episodes that I did at the VERY beginning.

So, unless you are a Legal Tea Listener from the beginning, hopefully this will be new content for you. Though, if you have been with me from the beginning, maybe it’ll be nice little refreshers like “Oh yeah – I remember that happening! That was wild!” I’m doing this because it will allow me some time and space to prep for my trip as well as come home/get caught up. I do this podcast for $0 … I actually am in the hole, now that I think about it. I earn $0…but I do have expenses like for my website, for my domain, etc. etc. At the end of the day, my law firm and its clients are what pays my bills, so I have to prioritize accordingly – so I really need to prioritize my law firm and getting ready to leave and coming home. I hope that makes sense – it makes sense in my head, at least! By the way, I DO have my estate plan done – it’d sure be the pot calling the kettle black if I didn’t!

Alright, I’m signing off with brand new content at least for 4 weeks – like I said, I’ll be rerecording all the next 4 episodes so they flow together and these endings make sense! Next week, we’re back to the “celebrity estate planning” type of episode – and during those types of episodes, we dive into a celebrity or “big name” person that has passed away and how their estate looked from an estate planning perspective. Next week’s episode is the infamous Robin Williams … one of my favorite actors. The amount of times I quote Mrs. Doubtfire is probably embarrassing! Anyway, tune in to that next week, Legal Tea Listeners, talk to you then and stay well!

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