Questions the Attorney Should Be Asking. . .

In my recent posts, I have been reflecting on the death of my father and how his estate planning could have been structured to avoid the disaster our family encountered when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He (and our family) lived with the disease for 12 years. If I had the opportunity to rewind the clock and if I was the attorney handling my father’s estate plan, here are some of the questions I would have asked him that were NOT asked:

Attorney: Mr. Feisee, as your attorney I need to prepare a plan that will address your needs immediately. Let’s call it “Next Month” Planning. In this regard, I would like to explore some different scenarios with you and get your thoughts.

Dad: Okay, what would you like to ask.

Attorney: If we were to do nothing as far as planning and you were to have a stroke next month, or be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some other catastrophic illness, can you describe how life would look like for your wife?

Dad: Well, since I own my own business, we would lose all that income. I guess my wife would have the burden of paying 2 mortgages with half the income. As far as my care, I guess she would be responsible for taking care of me as well. I guess she would be put in a very stressful position. Life would be tough, I am not sure how she would get by.

Attorney: Let’s fast forward 10 years and say that your wife managed to make ends meet for 1o years while taking care of you. Let’s say you pass away at this point. Can you describe how life would look for her at that point?

Dad: Well if she had to take care of me for 10 years, while working and paying all the bills including my medical care, I would say that she would be in a difficult financial position. She would probably have to work another 10 years at least and probably work until the day she died.
After going through 10 years of dealing with my care, I am guessing she would just want a break and take it easy since she is in her 70s. Life would look pretty bleak for her too.

Attorney: Let’s look at the other side of the coin and say that we did do some planning and that the plan included things like long term care insurance, diability insurance, and life insurance that would fill the liquidity needs of your spouse and family if these events were to occur. How might life look like then?

Dad: Well if there was money coming in to take care of me, that would lighten the load tremendously. If we could replace my income that would be a tremendous relief to my wife. As far as the life insurance, although I am not a big believer in, I see how it could be the ultimate gift I could give to my wife. I never looked at it this way.

Attorney: Maybe we should explore some options and talk to your advisors about how we can make this work with your budget.

Dad: Good idea.

This conversation could have saved our family over $600,000 in long term care expenses and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income and mortgage expenses. Maybe my dad would not have implemented all the ideas, but I think he may have done 1 or 2. Those 1 or 2 items could have changed our family members’ lives life tremendously. My mom currently works 8-10 hours a day and she is in her mid 70s. There is no vacation in sight. . .

As always, this blog is not intended for financial, legal, and/or tax advice. It is simply a place where I reflect on my personal life experiences. I am not selling any financial or insurance product; talk to your own professionals for any specific advice.