In my last blog, I focused on how health care powers of attorney can be useful. Today, I’d like to focus on planning in general. Clients often think that estate planning is for other people: It’s for people on their death bed; or it’s for people with terminal illnesses; or it’s for the really rich. While these are all true, it’s also for people who are not rich and are not sick.
First, we never know when tragedy might strike. A recent emergency landing by a Jet Blue flight highlighted this point. Here’s the cnn.com story about the incident. Luckily, the plane landed safely. However, those passengers who had done their planning rested a little easier, while those who had not done their planning suffered even more stress. It’s not just the unlikely event of a plane incident which might face each of us. In 2012, 33,651 people died and 2.36 million people were injured in automobile accidents in the United States. That’s an average of 119 people killed and 6,466 people injured in American automobile accidents each day. In addition, millions of people are treated in emergency rooms each year due to slips and falls. In a recent year it was 8.9 million people. It seems that Americans are rather accident-prone!
No wonder clients seem to be motivated to do estate planning as much by an upcoming vacation trip as by anything else. I did not always understand this phenomenon. The risk of something happening on a vacation trip is really quite remote. But, what I did not always understand, it is not the actual occurrence of an event, it is the fear of such an occurrence which is at issue. In other words, even if the accident or injury never occurs, the fear of the plane, train, or automobile crashing, or boat sinking, is still in the front or back of the soon-to-be-vacationer’s mind.
While the client does nothing to reduce the actual risk of an adverse event by planning, they do reduce the extent of the negative consequences by planning. We as estate planners are providing a valuable service in helping them reduce those negative consequences.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555