Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Planning for the Future--Part #1

We do a lot of planning for the future, but mostly we plan for the things we hope will come to fruition. Far too many people don't plan for when things might go wrong. The following suggestions are for some practical things that we all should be giving some thought to now, before we actually find ourselves with problems.


Everyone of legal age should have a will. The will allows you to make decisions about how things will be taken care of in case you are not here to do them. Parents of young children don't want to think about wills because who expects parents to die young. Yes, well reality says that planning on dying and dying are two different things. The first time my husband and I were going to take a trip out of NY after we had our children was when we made out our first wills. We were getting on an airplane. We were certainly hoping to come back. But what if that had not been the case? Who would have been the legal guardians for our children? Who would have assumed control of their finances? Who would have even known what those finances were? Our wills, made after much discussion between us, represented what we wanted for our children and how that should come about. And yes, they stipulated where we wanted to be buried as well.

Wills need to be updated at various points in your life. What may have applied 10 years ago may not apply now. We no longer have little children. One of the administrators for our first will is no longer living. In short, a will should reflect the here and now.

Halachic Wills:
There are halachic considerations that come into affect when you are making a will. See a rav for any wording that needs to be there for a will to be halachically valid.

Living Wills:
A living will comes into play for any time period where you are still living but unable to make decisions for yourself. It stipulates what type of emergency care you do or do not want. It discusses whether you do or do not want certain types of treatments. It lets you have a say in your care even when your physical voice may be muted.

Health Care Proxies:
All legal adults should have a health care proxy. This is a document that stipulates who can make medical decisions for you if you are not able to do so yourself. It allows your chosen representative to see your medical information, something that remains private even from a spouse, child or sibling unless there is written permission for them to be involved. This document goes hand in hand with a living will. The will lets your health proxy know your wishes and guarantees that your wishes will be followed by that person.

Such a warm, cuddly thing to discuss on a November morning. Do you wish to be buried where you now live? Do you wish to be buried in Israel? Where in Israel? Just be aware that if you are married you may find that your answers to "where should I be buried?" may be different, and may require some negotiation. My in laws are both buried in Israel as is my father; however, they are buried in two different cemeteries in two different cities. Presumably a husband and wife want to be buried close to each other. So, whose parents should they also be buried close to? Negotiating this issue can give you a graduate level degree in marital compromise.

Burial Expenses:
Funerals aren't cheap, and neither are burial plots. If you opt for Israel you should keep in mind that the expenses for burial are from $15,000 to $25,000 per plot. And the price keeps going up. If you stipulate burial in Israel in your will, have you also stipulated how to fund that burial? At a certain point burial expenses becomes part of the ongoing budget allotments.

Now comes an even harder thing to do. You need to find out if your parents or grandparents have done the kind of planning mentioned above, and if they haven't, you need to cajole, push and prod them into taking care of things now, not tomorrow. Planning for catastrophic illness or death is not morbid and nor is it, as a friend who simply could not deal with the thought said, an "ayin horah." What it is is a mature approach to items that are coming down the road someday, although we hope far, far into the future.


Anonymous said...

You make a good point about the wills but it needs to be stressed more that wills need to be looked at regularly and updated to reflect what is going on at every particular point in time. When you are young with young children you need to make sure that someone competent has drawn up your will and that the wording will cover you for cases that may arise after you have written a will.

We had a case brought to us where a will had been written and in that will the heirs, a man's children, had been named specifically. What had not been added was a proviso that the will also cover any children born to that man after the writing of the will. He was fortunately still living and the error could be fixed. Others have not been so lucky.

People have no problem in buying car and house and health and life insurance. They need to start looking at wills as a type of insurance as well.

Anonymous said...

Married couples need to openly discuss what they are putting into their health proxies and their wills with each other. My husband and I thought we knew what the other one would want in all areas but it turned out that we had some really different ideas in some cases. By working things out together we now know exactly how we would need to proceed if C"V an emergency comes up.

Anonymous said...

I would add that people should have a list of all their savings/checking/investment/401K/credit card accounts and have someone who knows where that list is if it becomes necessary to find it. When my grandfather died it took almost 5 years until his kids could track down everything. Over the years he had opened lots of bank accounts in different banks and invested with more than one broker and investment firm. His kids knew from what he had told them that he had money put away, they just didn't know where. It made things really difficult for my grandmother because she didn't have all that information either.

Anonymous said...

Veering off topic a little but still health concerned is that everyone should know what their blood type is. A member of our family had a medical emergency and they told us that fresh blood would be preferred and from a family relation would be preferred. When we started making the phone calls to get appropriate donors half the people we talked to had no idea what blood type they were. Some came in to be tested in case they were a match but we were working in a really tight time frame and needed the information now not 6 hours from now. And don't assume that if your brother or sister is one type that you are that type also--it doesn't work that way.

Lion of Zion said...

you left out wishes for organ donation. this is an important matter to discuss with next of kin because organ donor cards are not legal documents and family permission is still required. so if you a sign a card but don't make your wishes clear, family members might start fighting about it afterward.

from a halakhic perspective, you have to specify if you prefer cessation of heart beat or brain death (the latter is more controversial but the former is not particularly useful).

"Do you wish to be buried in Israel?"

i know this is more emotional than weddings, but if we should cut back on simcah expenses how do we justify expensive israeli burials?

Anonymous said...

lionofzion I think the prof gave one reason why people consider Israel for burial and that's because their parents and other family members are buried there. If you are looking to be buried with the rest of your family then the expense has to be considered. If you don't care about that then you can save the money.

And about that health proxy, the prof is sooo right. I developed a shock syndrome during the delivery of my last baby and was out in a semi-coma for two days. I didn't have that proxy. My doctor was nice enough to discuss what he was doing with my husband but he wasn't required to do that and if things had come to where the doctor and my husband disagreed about how to proceed then it would have been the doctor making all the decisions. As soon as I got home both my husband and I signed those health proxies. It's too late to do this when you need one. You have to do it before you need it and now while you are thinking about it is the right time.

Lion of Zion said...



ProfK said...

And do you have a will that states that your kids should get the money? And how about if your wife is still living when you die? Keep in mind that if you die intestate (without a will) the state becomes a partner in whatever you are leaving.

Anonymous said...