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Planning with a Purpose

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, April 24, 2019
By Gina R. Chevallier, Esq. 

There are circumstances in our lives that make us reflect on a future where we will need others to care for us or for a future where we won’t be around. These are difficult topics to consider, particularly when there are others depending on us. We all face challenges, however, there are some for which we can plan in order to be sure we meet our goals. Health issues, eventual old age, children with special needs, and retiring gracefully are all reasons to consider planning early to meet your specific purpose. Planning can take many forms, but financial, retirement, and estate planning are essential components to an overall plan.

Today, I want to discuss how  estate planning should be more than considering who gets your “stuff” when you are no longer around. Estate planning should also plan for your life. Yes, an estate plan should address whether you need a Last Will and Testament and/or a Trust, but it should also address advance directives such as powers of attorney, health care surrogates, living wills, and your individual wishes under certain scenarios.
As we age, it becomes more apparent that we need to deal with our own mortality as inevitable rather than as some distant event in the corners of our minds. Questions that you may never have considered before should be answered. How do you want to be treated and/or cared for if you become ill? How can you assure others in your family are cared for if you are not able to do so? Who will make health and financial decisions for you if you cannot? How broad or limited do you want this decision-making power to be? What type of medical treatment do you want or not want to receive? Does this depend on different scenarios? Who will care for minor children or adult children with developmental disabilities? The questions can be overwhelming, but are an important start to creating an individual plan that makes sense for you.

In order to create an impactful plan that meets all of your specific goals, you must consider several factors related to your unique circumstances. For example, a parent with a special needs child may be preoccupied with planning to have that child set up independently, via shared living or a relative, in order to minimize the disruption in that child’s life when the parent is no longer able to care for them. Researching alternatives for care of adult children with special needs should be done as early as possible. Discussing alternatives within the family and planning for that child’s specific needs and requirements can be a challenge but it needs to be a part of any overall planning. In contrast, an adult with a debilitating disease or diagnosis may be more focused on how to deal with the disease, what care options are available, and what types of life support options are appropriate for their personal beliefs.

A purposeful plan that addresses the issues important to you is key. Wishes as to how you want to be treated if you have a serious illness, or are close to death, should be addressed. A direction as to memorial or funeral services should be included. You can even include wishes for how you should be remembered, or how you would want your family and friends to treat each other. In order to make a difficult time a little less so for all involved, have the conversation with your loved ones and move forward preparing the documents that fit your individual plan. Whether those documents include durable powers of attorney, health care surrogate designations, directive on health care and power of attorney for care of minors, a last will and testament, an intervivos trust with a directive of care, or a special needs trust established for a family member, depends on your specific needs and purpose. The most important thing to do is to get moving in the right direction to create your plan.


Are there any steps you need to take in order to plan for your family's well-being if you are no longer around? If so, what can you do?
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