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Estate Planning

Why End of Life Planning is more than a Will

By April 13, 2022 No Comments
legal tools for end of life planning

A Will is a legal tool used to distribute property (part of an estate) and appoint a legal representative (executor) in the event of your death. Powers of Attorney are legal tools to be used if you ever want or need someone to have legal authority to make decisions for you while you are alive.

If Death and Incapacity were strictly legal events, a Will and Power of Attorney would be sufficient planning. Of course, these important life events are much more than just legal. Death is a profound social, practical, financial, emotional, and spiritual human experience for the dying and the living. Living with incapacity is a complicated and unsettling human experience, not just for the incapable person but also for their caregivers. Truly, the legal component is a small sliver of these massive human events.

Any person who has experienced the death or incapacity of a loved one has lived first-hand the limits of Wills and POAs.  Just like a compass cannot tell a sailor where to sail, a Will and POAs do not speak to the human desires or wishes of a person. The legal tools were never intended to address the human experience of death and incapacity and they certainly do not accomplish that.

I have learned that the public has conflated Wills and POAs with “Planning for Death and Incapacity” and it is misinformation that is causing noticeable harm to individuals, families and our communities.  

A Will is a compass, not a destination. A POA is a tool, not a plan.

The legal tools are for the legal aspects of Death and Incapacity. They are limited to appointing legal representatives (eg. Executors) and distributing some of the property of a deceased person. That’s it.  Nothing more. Straight legal. The role of the Will and POA are obviously important and necessary but extremely limited in telling the world about the life, purposes, desires, wishes, hopes, contributions, location of assets, preferred menu, traditions and stories of a person. 

Truth: legal documents are not intended to communicate to humans; they are intended to communicate to the law. Ever wonder why legal documents are so hard (if not impossible) to understand? Because they are not meant to be understood by you. No heart, no feeling, no expression, no humanity – just law.  

Accept this: legal tools communicate to the law; it’s up to humans to communicate to humans.

This is the answer to the question “why is Death and Incapacity Planning more than a Will and POAs?”.  The people you love need direction, they need purpose, motivation, reasons – they need meaning. They need connection to you. When they have connections, then they need the legal tools to fulfill the plan, responsibility and purpose. Unfortunately, most people just leave the tools and some disjointed, unintentional, vague, undocumented ideas. Most people leave a compass and no destination.

The time of vacuous planning is over. Denying death and its impact on individuals, family and community is only hurting us. It’s time for engagement. It’s time to connect to the reality of our own death. It’s time to bake meaning into your life and to be motivated by purpose. Observing and learning from the experiences of all that have come before us is long overdue.  It’s time to create a better ending.

If you’re interested in trying something new when it comes to planning your death or incapacity, we invite you give us a call and learn about our new service offerings that are designed to support not only the creation and maintenance of your legal toolbox but support you as you explore your life’s legacy and wishes.