Mother's Day is here and you’re probably still looking for the perfect gift. Flowers and cards are always appreciated, but maybe this year, you can get her something different: the peace of mind that comes with an estate plan.
We know it’s not pretty or poetic but hear us out. An estate plan can be the perfect gift for mothers of any age or stage of life.
For Moms with Grown Kids
If you’re all grown up and looking for a gift for your aging mother (maybe leave that detail off the card!!), a practical gift can be greatly appreciated. Something she might not have gotten around to or updated in a long time (because raising kids is TIME CONSUMING) is her own estate plan.
Estate planning is more than just a Will. Your mother may have property, savings, a business, specific healthcare needs and requests and more. A comprehensive estate plan will give your mother the chance to express her wishes to enable others to carry them out if she becomes incapacitated or when she’s gone.
- Do you know all of the details of how your mom wants to be cared for if she loses her mental capacity? Without an Advance Health Care Directive, no one can legally make decisions about her health care, where she lives, who takes care of her, etc.;
- Do you know who she wants to make legal and financial decisions for her if she is unable? Without a Durable Power of Attorney, no one can legally handle these important affairs; and
- Do you know how your mother wants her assets to be distributed? A living trust can clear that right up and avoid probate. Do you know that all Wills go through probate (assuming mom has more than $150,000 or has real estate*).
And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. While there are many “quick and dirty” resources out there for legal matters, be forewarned that you normally get what you pay for. Over 95% of the estate plans we see have a fatal flaw, most of which the client doesn’t know about. We define a successful plan as that which: 1) Honors mom’s wishes, 2) Avoids court and 3) Maintains family harmony after she’s gone.
Sadly, it’s common for family drama to surface if mom loses mental capacity and requires a lot of help and often gets worse after she passes away.
For you and your siblings, an estate plan for your mother can also prevent a lot of additional grief, anger, and resentment by providing a clear roadmap for how to handle your mother’s affairs, finances, property, and healthcare needs when the time comes.
And we’re sure your mother would appreciate that, too.
For Moms with Young Kids
Moms are usually planning machines but planning for themselves is one thing they often neglect. For those with young kids, one of the most thoughtful things you can gift to her is the peace of mind that comes with an estate plan.
An estate plan will:
- Name who will care for her children if she dies (obviously the other parent will be first but what if they both die … who is next?);
- Allocate life insurance policies, retirement plans and other assets through a trust to ensure that kids don’t get everything outright at 18 years old (despite how amazing YOUR kids are, the evidence suggests they will blow it). Without a well-considered and drafted trust, this will happen; and
- Plus everything in the above example.
For mothers with young kids, in particular, the care and keeping of their children is their highest priority. Without an estate plan, children who lose their mother (or both parents) may find themselves in a heated custody battle, which no one wants. Ever.
If you have a mother with young kids in your life, give her the gift of peace of mind that comes with an estate plan!
For Your Own Kids
Now, let’s flip the script. If YOU are a mother, there’s nothing more important than planning for your family if the unthinkable ever happens… to you or (God forbid) to your kids!
If you have children over the age of 18, they need, at minimum, an Advance Health Care Directive and a Durable Power of Attorney. Do you know that, without these documents, you have NO legal authority to make decisions on behalf of your child if he or she becomes mentally incapacitated and is 18 years or older?
Consider a horrific scenario, your child gets in an accident while traveling or is away at college.
- How will you make critical decisions with doctors on your young adults’ behalf;
- How will he or she feel about long-term life support (again, God forbid but do you remember Terri Schaivo?); and
- How will you handle financial decisions (talk to their credit card companies, banks, sell their car, access their social media accounts or online storage of their pictures, etc.)?
Sadly, you will not be able to do what you have always done for your children as their mother, without going to court. If your child (or any loved one for that matter) loses mental capacity (due to illness or an accident), you are headed to conservatorship (a super expensive and invasive court process that lasts for the rest of their life while incapacitated).
It is horrifying to think that something tragic could ever happen to your precious babies. We get it. So, take the first step. Help them get the paperwork they need in order now and then let’s not think about it again for a really long time!
Back to YOU, Mom
When the Mother’s Day celebrations are over, and you’re surrounded by gifts from your loved ones, take a moment to gift them back by making sure youhave a solid estate plan.
With an estate plan, you can:
- Make your healthcare wishes clear so you do not burden your family by forcing them to make critical decisions without your guidance that they may second guess for many years;
- Determine with extreme specificity who gets what of your personal property and larger assets;
- Cover your debts with life insurance;
- Save your estate money and your family time and emotional heartache by avoiding conservatorship and probate;
- Keep family assets in the family where they belong;
- Allow your family the time and space to seamlessly care give or grieve; and
- Most importantly, maintain family harmony.
If you already have an estate plan, GOOD WORK! However, if it is out of date it can cause a lot of problems if something were to happen to you! We recommend updating your plan every 5 years or with any big life change.
Make the call. Mark it on your calendar. Do what you need to do! When the time comes to use your plan, your family will be grateful that you have cared for yourself and for them by creating or updating your estate plan. And yes, even for your “mothering” from the grave!
Don’t Skip the Flowers
You have learned a lot in a short time just now. Take it all in, take a deep breath, and get to work.
We’re not saying you should skip the nice lunch or skimp on the flowers this Mother’s Day. Mom deserves those, too. In fact, Sunday brunch is a great time to START THE CONVERSATION! And when all that’s over, bring her by to meet us. We will take care of her (or you) as if you’re our own family.
An estate plan is truly the gift that keeps on giving. When the time comes, it will be invaluable, and the peace of mind will last a lifetime.
* Probate can also be avoided by using joint ownership and beneficiary designations but be very careful with this kind of planning; it often doesn’t work as it’s intended.