New Year's Resolution One
Stop procrastinating and make an estate plan
By Michael L. Smith, R.R.T.,J.D., It's that time of year when we look at where we are, what we have accomplished and what we still need to do. Often we make New Year's Resolutions on what we want to accomplish in the next year. This is the year to make that estate plan including a will and advance directives so make that your first New Year's Resolution. Less than half of Americans have prepared a will. Even fewer Americans have prepared any formal advance directives such as a living will, a durable power of attorney, or designating a health care surrogate. Older Americans are more likely to have at least prepared a will compared to younger adults. Surprisingly, 60% of Americans with minor children do not have a will designating the guardian of their minor children in the event both parents die. The list of excuses for not making an estate plan is endless. A common excuse is that the process of making an estate plan is too complicated and expensive. Generally, it will end up costing more to resolve your estate if you die without a will than the cost of having a will prepared. People also claim they are too busy coping with life's other responsibilities to make an estate plan. Life does have a tendency to sneak up on us, but so can an untimely death. If you do not have a basic will, then making an estate plan is a responsibility that should not be ignored. In reality, a significant number of people are uncomfortable addressing their personal finances, and their ultimate demise. Healthcare providers are no different. Healthcare providers are constantly discussing the need for these documents with their patients, but a significant number of those same healthcare providers have ignored their own advice. According to one survey, more than 33% of physicians dealing with severely ill patients on a daily basis have not prepared their own wills, or any other estate planning documents.
Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is board certified in health law by The Florida Bar and practices at The Health Law Firm in Altamonte Springs, Fla. This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for formal legal advice. This article was originally published in Advance for Respiratory Care and Sleep Medicine.