The Edmond Sun

October 11, 2013

ASK A LAWYER: There’s more to do than just a will

By Matt Hopkins
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series of columns written by attorneys at Lester, Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.



Q: Besides a will, what documents do I need to prepare in order to have a complete estate plan?

A:
Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about a world without us in it. Trust me on this. Nearly two decades of law practice has taught me this about people: Most of us tend to focus on ourselves. It’s true. Even when our life ambition is to love other people and do what is best for them first, we still have a mental picture of ourselves being somewhere in the equation.

So, it can be difficult to actually focus on fully providing for our loved ones in a reality that no longer includes us. We want to do it, and most of us take some steps in that direction. We buy life insurance and name death beneficiaries on our thrift savings accounts. (Well, mine is thrifty.) But our disinclination to focus on a world without yours truly often makes us stop short of the action we really should take to prepare for the truth that the world will still spin on its axle when we are gone — and our children will spin with it.

I have noticed that most people want to prepare a will. Most of them even eventually get around to it, but usually after years and sometimes decades of procrastination. But, when I begin discussing a full estate plan rather than a mere will, many people begin to lose focus quickly. They act as if they are my 15-year-old son and I have just asked them if they have algebra homework. Eyes dart and spin and subjects are changed — all weak attempts to camouflage reality with confusion and illusion.

It just doesn’t seem that important. After we have said who gets our stuff and who cares for our kids, what is left to talk about? Well, a lot. For those of us with minor children or adult family members with special needs, wills and trusts are critical. They provide a framework for us to ensure our children are well cared for, and by people of whom we approve. But many other issues abound, and a couple of additional documents help cover the bases.

In addition to a will or trust, everyone should have a durable power of attorney. Everyone should have an advanced health care directive. We’ll discuss them both in upcoming articles.



MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at lldlaw.com. Send questions to questions@lldlaw.com.