Things don’t always go as planned. Unexpected events like accidents and illness can upend your life. Since you never know when something will change your life overnight, you need to be prepared. The solution is advance directives and wills.
Serious Injuries and Illnesses Happen Every Day
You could be injured in a car accident, while riding a bike, or even while walking around town. The National Safety Council says there were 62 million nonfatal injuries requiring medical attention and 224,935 injury-related deaths in 2021. Compared to 2020, the number of deaths occurring at home increased 13%, motor vehicle deaths increased 11%, deaths occurring in public increased 10.5%, and deaths occurring at work increased 8.8%.
Illnesses are also incredibly common. The CDC says 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer and more than 877,500 Americans die of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases each year.
We all like to imagine we’re immune to these risks, but we’re not. The simple reality is anyone can end up in the hospital in the blink of an eye – and many people are not prepared.
A Lack of Planning Can Make a Tragedy Worse
Experiencing a life-threatening illness or injury is already tragic. However, a lack of planning can add to the stress and difficulty your loved ones go through.
For example, imagine a man named Kevin lives with his girlfriend Becky and Becky’s son, whom he sees as his own child. Although he supports Becky financially, they’re not married. Then, Kevin dies suddenly in a car crash. Becky is sure he would have wanted his savings and house to go to her and her son, but there is nothing official to back up this claim. Since he doesn’t have a will, what happens to his estate is determined by Oregon state law. Becky is grieving, but she also has to figure out how to provide for her son and where they will live if they can’t stay in Kevin’s house.
If Kevin had created a will that made his wishes clear, this could have been avoided.
An unexpected death is not the only unforeseen event that requires preparation. As another example, imagine a woman named Carol has a serious, long-term boyfriend. A car crash leaves her in a coma with brain damage and it is unclear whether she will wake up. Her boyfriend believes he knows what she would have wanted for her care, but because she never put her wishes in writing or appointed him to make medical decisions for him, he does not have a say in what happens. Instead, Carol’s estranged parents are given this right.
If Carol had created an advance directive, her wishes would have been known and followed.
Wills and Advance Directives
A will is the cornerstone of estate planning. More formally known as the last will and testament, it is an official document that outlines people’s wishes for what they want to happen after their death, including:
- How they want their assets (including property and savings) to be distributed
- Who they want to serve as their personal representative to manage probate (the process in which debts are paid and assets are distributed)
- Who they want to be the guardian of their minor children
Whereas a will provides critical information regarding people’s wishes for after their death, an advance directive provides critical information for a what they want to happen if they are incapacitated and can’t make medical decisions for themselves. The advance directive can also name a medical power of attorney who can make medical decisions on their behalf.
Don’t Put Off Your Estate Plan
It’s impossible to know what tomorrow will bring. Hopefully, it will bring joy and laughter, but in case it brings life-threatening illness or injury, you need to be prepared. An estate planning attorney can help you craft advance directives and wills that make your wishes clear as well as any trusts or other estate planning tools you may need. Contact Skinner Law.