In last Sunday’s NYT Business Section, a timely and relevant article about end of life planning really resonated with me. As an estate planning and probate attorney, I deal with death and dying every day. Many clients experience tremendous angst when discussing these issues which is probably why over half of all Americans avoid the topic all together and do not have even the most basic estate planning documents. The pandemic changed that. Starting in March, we received a notable increase in calls from individuals, particularly those who work in health care, seeking estate planning documents. While it may take a global pandemic to make us realize we are mere mortals, the reality is that these are issues we all will face at one time or another.

What this article could have been entitled was “How Millennials Think about Death” because of its discussion of different companies’ creative use of technology to write obituaries, plan one’s funeral, prepare estate planning documents or even turn a one’s loved one’s ashes into jewelry. These companies are trying to take the stigma out of talking about these issues and give a person “more control over life’s greatest uncertainty.” According to the article, “studies have found that being able to talk about your mortality makes you a happier person and improves your relationships.” I don’t know whether this is true but anecdotally, having done this for 17 years, I can say with absolute certainty that clients feel better after they have completed their estate planning. We suggest that clients take a holistic approach to planning. In addition to the preparation of estate planning documents, we encourage them to put their financial house in order, by referring them to a competent financial advisor, if they don’t work with one already. We also assist in coordinating their assets with their plan, so that the documents will actually carry out their objectives.  We promote speaking to the people whom clients have designated in the various roles of their plan in order to discuss end of life decisions and funeral wishes. In fact, Michigan permits the appointment of a funeral representative to make your funeral decisions. We provide documents and reminders for clients to “write down” or somehow memorialize their passwords for their digital accounts so that this information is easily accessible to their fiduciaries should they become incapacitated or pass away.  For clients with young children, I advise them to write a letter detailing their goals and wishes for their children, providing guidance to their trustees and guardians on how the assets should be spent and what values they wish to be imparted should they pass away.

I appreciated the hands on – take charge approach to death and dying conveyed by these thoughtful entrepreneurs. And while I do not think I’m ordering a “diamond” made from the ashes of a dearly departed relative any time soon, I do think planning is wise, thoughtful and the right thing to do now and well into the future. If you have any questions about planning, had a recent loss or would like to schedule a consultation, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Kristen R. Gross, PC. We are open and working through the pandemic to assist clients.

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