A few years ago, I created the Heartfelt Advance Care Plan booklet to provide my clients with a tool to improve their end-of-life care, to honor their choices and to reduce conflict and guilt among surviving family members. Those who do fill it out usually comment about how difficult yet rewarding it was to complete. Asking and answering detailed questions about end-of-life wishes, regardless of how difficult it may be, is tremendously helpful to both the dying and their survivors.
We often struggle with the concepts of equal, equitable, fair, and adequate when it comes to the distribution of our assets among our children. Understanding the meaning of each term helps us make the decision that most closely reflects our intention.
Making an estate plan that clearly documents intention helps surviving family members avoid fighting; especially in court. Yet lawyers will write the estate plan for exactly that purpose — writing as if it were going to be fought over in court. I call this legalese legal dis-ease. Write your intentions down in your own hand-writing for inclusion in your estate plan so that you don’t risk miscommunication or misunderstanding among surviving family members.
There is no “good grief” or “bad grief”— there is only grief. Drs. Kenneth Doka and Terry Martin* suggest that there are two types of grievers: “instrumental” and “intuitive.” Neither type is deficient; only different. Understanding the difference can allow family members to empathize with, rather than attribute bad motives to, another family member.
It is not just families who disagree about the interpretation of legal documents. There seems to be tension among estate planning attorneys in regard to recommending that clients write down their heartfelt intentions to accompany those documents. Many lawyers believe that it is the form that is most important — that the written legal language will communicate their client’s heartfelt wishes. Others believe that, no matter how carefully written, the form alone cannot transfer intention.
Ideally, estate planning is “by invitation only.” Most people misunderstand this to mean that we, as the lawyers, are the ones doing the inviting. In actuality, it’s you, the clients, who are doing the inviting, by inviting us into your unique and textured lives.
Before you panic about the new “Hawai‘i Aid in Dying Law,” it’s a great law but not for the reasons you may think. Governor Ige signed the Our Care, Our Choice Act on April 5, 2018 and it will become law on January 1, 2019. The new law’s purpose is to establish a regulated process whereby a mentally competent adult resident of Hawai‘i with a terminal illness and less than six months to live may choose to end life with a prescription.
I had been preparing to write about the importance of conversation in estate planning while watching a documentary on HBO called Cries From Syria. In the midst of this heart-wrenching story about the Syrian situation—a girl, who could not have been older than 8 or 9—facing death from starvation and preparing her will. It had nothing to do with money.
The Hidden Costs of Probate Court by Stephen B. Yim, Attorney at Law from the Oct-Nov 2016 issue of Generations Magazine, Hawai‘i’s Resource for Life
Put Your Voice Into Your Estate Plan by Stephen B. Yim, Attorney at Law from the August-September 2016 issue of Generations Magazine, Hawai‘i’s Resource for Life
Sycamore Row by Stephen B. Yim, Attorney at Law from the June-May 2016 issue of Generations Magazine, Hawai‘i’s Resource for Life