An Estate Planning Story: Failure To Plan Is Planning To Fail
Seventeen years ago
Springtime in Michigan. Sunny, warm breezes, promise of summer. But a cold winter for Lansing Car Assembly. For 120 years, the factory churned out REO Speedwagons, tank cannons, aircraft machineguns, millions of artillery shells, muscle cars, and the last Oldsmobile convertible. GM’s most efficient plant. But the last Olds, a sporty Alero, drove off the line on April 29, 2004. It was over.
Fred and Barney walked away. Friends since their Lansing Technical High School days. They hired into the plant soon after graduation in the 60’s. Married to Wilma and Betty, Lansing Central girls they met at a Junior ROTC dance. The girls joined the steno pool soon after the boys went to work.
Many years later, the two men retired from the plant Ransom E. Olds founded so long ago. Pure Michigan. These older gentlemen were very much alike. Team players. They got the job done. Both had better-than-average careers. Personable, well-respected, and secure. Revered members of their church. Paid-for home in a nice neighborhood: $175,000. Savings of $200,000 from the days before 401(k) plans. Life insurance: $75,000. No debt. Conservative investments. Three kids. Three grandchildren. No bad habits (except spoiling the grandkids).
As new retirees so often are, both were filled with dreams for the future. Time to spend more time with the important people. Wives, kids, grandchildren. Tinkering in the shop. Volunteering at church. Traveling. Enjoying the retirement freedom and security they worked for, looked forward to, earned.
Last week. Still the same…
Every year, when the weather begins to turn, Fred and Barney return to visit. Nothing to see, really. Just memories.
They were still very much alike. Both healthy. Still devoted to their wives. Not all marriages thrive for fifty years. Both primary caregivers for their high school sweethearts. At home. Sadly, just a few short years into retirement, Wilma and Betty were stricken with Alzheimer’s.
But there are enormous differences.
Barney struggles to make ends meet. Living in subsidized senior housing. “On duty” 24 hours per day until his health broke. Exhausted. Retirement savings, Life insurance, Comfortable home – all gone. Betty went to memory care first. Now, the nursing home. Bank account emptied, retirement benefits cut, Barney needs every penny of social security.
Fred recently hosted his favorite (his only!) granddaughter’s wedding. “Uncle” Barney was an honored guest. Nothing high society, but really nice. One hundred and twenty close family and friends. Life savings intact. Independent, secure. Yes, he is Wilma’s primary caregiver. But she still lives at their home. And he has plenty of help.
Fred’s superpower is the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). PACE is the Medicaid program that provides services at home. No worries. COVID emergency rules let him keep the home, workshop, life savings.
Why Is One Desperate And The Other Secure?
Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference in a person’s life? It does not seem to be natural intelligence or talent or dedication. I do not believe that Fred wants security, and that Barney does not.
Doesn’t the difference lie in what each person knows and how he or she uses that knowledge?
Every week we offer LifePlan™ Workshops and Webinars. Each week you are given a precious opportunity. You can say “Yes.” Yes to planning, security, choice. Middle class folks do not have to go broke. But traditional estate planning is broken. And that is the difference.
What is knowledge without action?
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.
Years ago, Fred and Wilma invited Barney and Betty to join them at a LifePlan™ Workshop. Barney and Betty were too busy. Fred and Wilma made the time. Learned the lessons. Established their LifePlan™. It cost money. And effort. But Fred and Wilma (to be honest, it was mostly Wilma) persisted. And those law firm people made sure Fred and Wilma understood every step along the way.
When Alzheimer’s struck Wilma, Fred was ready. Health Care documents: Patient Advocate, Advance Directive, HIPPA releases. Even a funeral representative paper. Locked and loaded. Financial documents: Pantry Trust, Protection Trust, Financial Power of Attorney, Assignments, Deeds. Fort Knox safety.
Trusted professionals who do not charge by the hour. Everything quoted in advance. Friendly, reliable paralegals and attorneys. They sure seem willing to help. They say, “Always a free phone call. Always a free visit.” Maybe it is all just an act! But it is a pretty convincing act. Over all these years. And they have been darn helpful. Like with that wedding planner’s contract… Maybe they mean it…
“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose” — Janis Joplin
Barney and Betty’s son-in-law told them about free fill-in-the-blank estate planning forms and cheap on-line services. A dedicated helpful son-in-law, he even printed them out on his own computer.
Free. Except for the $200,000 of life savings. Free. Except the $175,000 home. Free. Except the $75,000 life insurance. Yes. Free. Except for a lifetime’s worth of work and savings. Free. Except for that.
Maybe Janis was right. The most expensive things in the world are “free”.
LifePlanning™ works for you, your loved ones, your greater circle of friends. Have you heard about PACE or the new COVID emergency rules anywhere else?
Heartfelt Thanks To Geraldine T. Richardson – Special Contributor
I wish to recognize Geraldine T. Richardson (not to be confused with the other Geraldine Richardson who is a fine person but has no middle initial) for her inspiration. Geraldine has personally experienced, in her own family, the difference LifePlanning™ can make. I think it is fair to say that she is a little frustrated that more folks do not take advantage of these opportunities. (Hey, I’m doing the best I can!) When I asked Geraldine what more we could do, she said “Tell them, David! Tell them!” “How?” I replied. “Tell them about real families! But change the names…”