Vail Daily column: Planning for the inevitable
I am going to die. Hopefully not by the time you read this and hopefully not until I finally get to ride in an autonomous flying car, watch my great-grandkids graduate from space college and witness the inauguration of the first robot President. Still, one day, my kin will fly in from their various outposts around the galaxy and send me off to the great powder day in the sky. Typically a worrier, the inevitability of death is actually liberating to me. The fickle nature of existence has inspired me to live a life of which I will be proud, even if it were to end tomorrow. But, I do not walk this earthly plane alone. Lauren and Violet are my partners in crime, fellow adventurers, and the loves of my life. When I involuntarily skedaddle, I want to ensure that they will be (almost) as happy as when I was here. To accomplish this goal, I cannot fly by the seat of my pants, I must do some careful planning.
Message from the Afterlife
In the past years, we have amassed more things than a younger me would have guessed: a modest townhouse, two cars, an ever-expanding collection of bikes and skis and other outdoor paraphernalia. These things have some objective value and are joined by those sentimental items that have no intrinsic worth, but are subjectively invaluable to us. I want those things to stay in our family. In the horrific event that my wife and I both perish, I want to ensure that Violet is able to enter a loving, caring home. However, they have not yet created a communications device that gets messages from the afterlife (I almost wrote underworld, but I am choosing to be more optimistic than that). Our intentions need to be spelled out, in writing, in a document that can be enforced in court.
Leave it to Experts
Theoretically, I could create this document myself. After all, I am an attorney. Hypothetically, I could also restore a 1964 Shelby Cobra GT. However, I do not have the requisite skills or experience in either of those areas. For one, I would have difficulty gluing together a Matchbox car. And, estate planning, trust formation and other related areas are very specialized. I may know the ins and outs of civil procedure and litigation, but I have never drafted a will. I do not know the special language, the issues that may arise, or the consequences of one decision over another. Just as I have a mechanic repair my car, I entrust the planning of my estate to a specialist. For non-attorneys, this is even more important, as they likely have an even smaller frame of reference for the law than I do.
People are mistrustful of lawyers, often for good reason. But there are excellent attorneys out there who take their role as counselor seriously. This is particularly true of estate planning attorneys, the advisors with whom you trust your life’s assets and your family. They are the ones to walk you through your options, to ask tough questions, and to create a plan for what happens when you croak or are severely disabled or mentally incompetent. They understand how to interlock your estate plan with your insurance products, investment portfolios, and other financial resources that will provide for your family when you depart this mortal coil. These are people who spend their entire professional life working through these matters, learning what works and what does not.
Best Laid Plans
You may have some idea of how to address your demise and it may be odd or convoluted. That is OK, it is a personal decision. But, you would be foolish not to spend a small bit of time speaking with an expert to make sure that your ideas are feasible. It would be a shame to have your best laid plans spoiled by creditors, the government or unscrupulous family members. An estate planning attorney is the guardian of at least your tangible legacy.
Not getting out alive
Nobody likes contemplating their mortality. Especially in this valley, where we are all full bore into the business of living. To engage in the process of estate planning takes a level of maturity and vision that we do not always believe that we have. But, a head in the sand approach will only harm you and your loved ones in the long run. You will not come out alive. Unless, of course, you take the Dr. Evil/Walt Disney approach and cryogenically freeze yourself until they find a cure for death. If that is your gambit, then my advice may be irrelevant.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.