Ben Franklin, that quotable Founding Father, Inventor, and Philosopher coined the famous phrase:
“Our new Constitution is now established and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Another quality reflection:
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
These observations must certainly be true because Ben Franklin made them. (By the way, he did not say, “a stitch in time saves nine” as I was told during my youth). Statistically, death is an absolute certainty – a risk ratio of 1:1 – it is 100% going to happen. So, the only data left for the odds makers is the actuarial “over/under.” I cannot think of another risk with such certain odds. The sun will always rise in the East and set in the West, but I would not call that a risk. It would therefore logically seem that failing to prepare for one’s incapacity or death could result in the failure and frustration of one’s intent.
I am puzzled. Why do 100% of responsible adults have risk management strategies that include insurance for their cars, boats, and homes, but less than 50% of those same people have risk management strategies for the guardianship of their minor children in the event of their death? Why do 100% of responsible adults work hard accumulating assets, but less than 50% of those same people have risk management strategies that include a Will, Trust, or Durable Power of Attorney for the orderly management or distribution of those assets in the event of incapacity or death? Why do 100% of responsible adults have risk management strategies that ensure their health care, but 50% of those same people do not have a Medical Power of Attorney, Directive to Physicians, or HIPAA Authorization?
To these questions, I often get a variety of answers. A client will say to me, “Estate planning is death planning,” to which I respond, “Isn’t death a risk, or more accurately, a certainty?” I’ve also heard, “That is something that happens in the future; I’ll plan for that later,” to which I respond, “Now, when is that auto accident or house fire scheduled to occur?” Or, more sympathetically I hear, “The idea of estate planning is so emotionally depressing,” to which I offer the following illustrations, separating the planning from the event itself:
- If your home burns to the ground, you will experience a very emotional event. However, the purchase of a homeowner’s insurance policy is considered a strategically responsible risk management decision, not an emotional event.
- If your new Lexus is a total loss as the result of an accident, hurricane, flood, or hailstorm, you will experience an emotional event. However, the purchase of an auto insurance policy is considered a strategically responsible risk management decision, not an emotional event.
- If you are diagnosed with cancer or suffer from a disability, you and your family will experience an emotional event. However, the purchase of health insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance are considered strategically responsible risk management decisions, not emotional events.
The same people who never give a second thought to purchasing peace of mind when making risk management decisions seem content in leaving the management of their assets, support of spouse and children, and health care decisions either to chance or the Texas State Legislature. At best, they are experiencing only a “piece of mind” – an especially acute risk among blended families.
I leave you with a few more Ben Franklin quotes to encourage you to have an estate planning conversation with your attorney and your family now. As the title of my upcoming book suggests “You Only Die Once – You Better Get It Right ©.”
- “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”
- “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
- “I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.”
- “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing about.”
- “You may delay, but time will not.”
- “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”
- “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
©Will Morris 2020