I sometimes hear people say that they do not have enough “stuff” to worry about an estate plan. In fact, this attitude is not uncommon. Many people consider an “estate plan” and a Will to mean the same thing. A Will does address who gets your things when you die. But an “estate” includes more than your “things,” and “planning” involves more than deciding who gets what.
Terry Schiavo’s experience is an important example. In 1990, Ms. Schiavo collapsed and was left in a persistent vegetative state. Her parents fought her husband’s attempt to have Ms. Schiavo taken off life support. Both sides were adamant they knew what Ms. Schiavo would have wanted.
The legal fight started with a lawsuit in Florida’s state court. Five additional lawsuits were filed. Fourteen appeals followed. The Florida legislature and Governor Jeb Bush tried to join in but the Florida Supreme Court struck down their effort. Congress and President Bush even got involved. In the end, Ms. Schiavo passed away 15 years later when a federal judge finally ruled she was to be taken off life support.
Even if Ms. Schiavo would have had a Will, it would have done nothing to address (or avoid) this tragedy. However, despite these terrible circumstances, the fight within her family – in fact, the entire controversy — could have been avoided had Ms. Schiavo signed a “Living Will.” This document should be part of every estate plan but has nothing to do with what you might own.
An estate plan should address more than what happens to your things when you die. It should also address what happens to you (and your things) if you become incapacitated or must deal with other complications of life.
As we learned from Ms. Schiavo’s experience, everyone has an estate plan. The real question is whether your estate plan is one you choose or one that is chosen for you. It is a safe bet that Ms. Schiavo’s choice would not have been to create a long, acrimonious battle entangling those she loved most.
Come to a free, no obligation presentation to find out how easy it is to have the estate plan you need.