After several attempts at trying to figure out exactly what she meant, I asked her, “What does family mean to you for estate planning purposes?” Her answer was enlightening and revealing. She said, "I do not have children. I do not have a sibling that I care about or like. So I don't have a family. Why should I plan?"
What a powerful statement, and yet not that uncommon.
Family for the purposes of estate planning documents simply means whomever or whatever you would like to see receive your stuff when you're gone, or who is going to be the person or people who will assist you with making decisions as your power of attorney agents for finances or for medical treatment. Family is whomever you define it to be in your estate planning documents, and in the estate planning document context is not necessarily defined by blood or lineal descendants or lineage.
In her context, whomever she is going to name to receive the assets upon her death or to be her power of attorney agents or executors in her documents is her family for her purposes. When I explained that to her, it was clear that a weight was lifted from her shoulders.
She had gone through life believing she didn't have any family and therefore had no need to do any type of planning. In the workshop, she learned pretty quickly that you needed to have documents in case of incapacity or death, but was struggling with who to name because she didn't have anybody that she cared about.
We brainstormed some ideas of some charities that were very important to her, and a neighbor friend who was very good with finances who assists her on a daily basis. She ended up providing for some charities upon her death and asking her neighbor friend to make some decisions for her while she is alive if she becomes incapacitated.
It was very clear to me that I had lifted a burden off of her that was causing major stress.
The best thing about estate planning is that you are in control, and you get to define who family is, and it's not defined by some other term or something that you are stuck with simply because others say so.
This is just one example of how much insight attendees get when showing up for our workshops. We encourage you to join us for one of our upcoming workshops and get your estate planning started. Just click here to find out more.