Even thinking of an unexpected and life-changing event can be disturbing. But death or illness can occur at any time.
Unfortunately, people do not plan such events. And statistically, most young people could spend years without planning and not really worrying.
Of course, the unexpected happens, and without proper planning, the consequences can be amplified. So what does it take to get people to express their wishes about their finances, health care and possessions, as well as their emotional messages, to their loved ones? Many, counselors said, but persistent nudging works.
What people think is unexpected varies. To wink at the known unknowns of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and unknown strangers, there are unexpected events that can not be prepared – like mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday.
But there are also unexpected events that can be blunted or controlled with a little planning.
Take the desire to make sure your family is cared for if you die suddenly. Parents are advised to purchase a relatively inexpensive term life insurance to provide money to care for their children, just in case.
Another option is disability insurance, which is designed for healthy working-age people who are more likely to become disabled than die.
Disability insurance is more expensive than life insurance, but both of these planning solutions require relatively little effort. Most people understand that they should have both forms of insurance, even if everyone does not choose to buy it.
Planning becomes more complex with the so-called more flexible problems: the questions to which there are multiple but sometimes contradictory answers. Who should be contacted if something is wrong? How do I want to share my personal possessions? What are my thoughts of going to a retirement home? Do I want to be resurrected if I have cardiac arrest? Thoughts on a funeral?
“The best way to plan an event you can not control is to put together your own plan,” said Sharon Klein, president of the New York Metropolitan Area for Wilmington Trust. “Otherwise, someone else will put a plan in place for you.”
Customers at a company like Wilmington Trust are rich and receive more attention from advisors. But there are many web services to help anyone plan.
Everplans is a site. It guides users through a list of documents and discussions to consider: wills, insurance, health care guidelines, e-mail passwords and social media accounts, funeral planning. But it also has sections for storing souvenirs like family recipes or for leaving instructions on pet care or how things work at home.
“We want to help people think about the unexpected,” said Abby Schneiderman, co-founder and co-CEO of Everplans. “It could be something unexpected – natural disaster, flood, fire, sickness, death – you do not know, the idea is, do not wait until it’s too late.”
The service, which costs $ 75 a year to individuals, encourages users to do more. He offers a 10-minute “just in case” plan that asks people to put as much information as they have in their memory, said Ms. Schneiderman.
“We want to be a one-stop shop, but we also try to get people to take one room at a time,” she said. For example, the service sends out e-reminders to invite users to go one step further.
Final Roadmap is another site of this type. It is the result of a nurse’s frustration with families who are unprepared for logistic decisions and considerations at the end of life.
Steve Byrne, a co-founder of Final Roadmap, said the website, which charges a one-time fee of $ 249, contained legal and financial documents, death instructions and messages for loved ones.
“All these notifications can prevent problems that replace money problems,” he said. Without proper instructions, these decisions “can explode and make sure that the brothers and sisters never speak to each other”.
The wealthiest people tend to rely on counselors who have access to a range of information to help them, especially in tax planning, which could become more urgent if President Trump proposes to repeal the estate and other transfer duties. Adam von Poblitz, director of Citi Private Bank’s North American fiduciary division, said the repeal of a tax that would take 40% of a couple’s assets above the $ 11 million exemption would increase the need to create a trust.
“You need trusts to protect the assets of creditors but also the beneficiaries themselves,” he said. “This aspect of protection does not disappear” if the inheritance tax is repealed.
Not planning for the planned can also cause unnecessary confusion and stress.
“We are putting more and more emphasis on how to live the end of our days,” said Rachel J. Sherman, vice president of customer service for Market Street Trust Company, which started as the office of the family of founders of Corning Glass Works. . “You need more attention, people do not want to be a burden.”
73-year-old Monette Booth, who lives in the Virgin Islands, said she learned from her mother and aunt to get her house in order. They “stressed to our children that life is never guaranteed and that we should always plan for the future,” she said.
After her husband, Peter, a retired Corning executive, passed away in 2011, she stepped up her plans to make sure she could age where she wanted, that she would not clutter her loved ones and that her property would eventually be eliminated as she wished.
“For practical reasons and having no children, I recognized that at some point in my life I will need help,” she said. “I made the decision to make the decision.”
Ms. Booth said she was part of a “circle of friends” in which she and others shared information that someone would need if one of them became unfit.
She said planning was not difficult to envision. “I thought it made a lot of sense,” she said. “Otherwise, you’re an ostrich and do not pay attention, it’s part of an inevitable process.”
Most people are not so pragmatic, let alone proactive and organized. A solution for wealthy people is a revocable trust, which can be used as a repository for financial assets but also documents to guide the family.
Ms. Klein from Wilmington Trust stated that many clients had revocable trusts that were written to become irrevocable in the event of disability or death. She said that they could then function as a more sophisticated power of attorney; they could also help avoid the probate process of a will that delays access to assets.
Still, deciding what to do to prepare, for example, for the possibility of being incapacitated by illness is a test of managing expectations around the unexpected. Jeffrey Maurer, managing director of Evercore Wealth Management, said he has presented the case in a rational manner.
“My main concern for clients, friends and family, for myself, is the likelihood, if someone were a player, that I survive my current cognitive abilities,” he said.
The answer determines what protections people should put in place, if they can afford it.
Plans can have limits. Barry Sinrod, who took early retirement as a market researcher and continued to write several bestsellers, said he and his wife, Shelly, thought they were planning well in case one of they would be incapacitated. They even had a provision on assisted suicide.
In 2003, his wife learned that she had Parkinson’s, but she responded well until she learned that she had dementia. In 2010, he said, she did not know him or their children. He sought someone to help his wife die, but found that no one would, because at that time she was not competent to appear before a judge.
She died in 2014. “I said, I do not want it to happen to me,” said Sinrod, 75, of Delray Beach, Florida.
When he met his second wife, whom he married in January, he raised his desire to die with dignity, he said.
“Now I have this document saying that my second wife will take me to the Netherlands to die if my children do not want to take me,” Sinrod said. “My children do not like the idea of that, but they understand.”
And they do it because he has been so explicit in planning his wishes.