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Estate Planning: A Gift for You and Your Loved Ones

By Tammie Richter, Foundation Director

Recently, I witnessed a friend spend over one year working through the legal and emotional stress of managing her father’s estate. Grieving the loss of a parent is enough, then there’s the work of hiring attorneys, sorting through financial matters, and communicating with siblings. The additional pressure of guessing how a loved one wanted their estate managed is just one more stressor for loved ones. Some items to consider for an estate plan include choosing a power of attorney for medical and financial concerns, ensuring all beneficiary designations are determined and updated, and finalizing a last will and testament.

Establishing an estate plan can feel daunting and difficult. For many people the conversation with loved ones regarding their final wishes can be hard, but it can also be liberating and insightful. For 25 years, I have been having conversations with individuals regarding estate planning and charitable contributions. These conversations revolve around how charitable giving can financially benefit non-profit organizations people think are important, and how they will leave a legacy.

For years, I had been encouraging others to plan their estate while I myself hadn’t done so! I had all kinds of excuses. Not enough money to pay for the process, not enough assets to really worry about, and a secret stress about my own mortality. Well that all changed in 2015 when my husband and I drove 4,000 miles on a vacation. After many stressful driving encounters and many hours of time together in the car, the topic of having our affairs in order kept coming up. I remember we got home from the trip and the next day we made the call to a local attorney to begin the process of planning our estate.

Once we made the decision and had our first appointment with the attorney, all of the anxiety we had been having just dissolved. For example, my husband and I had conversations we had never had in our previous 22 years together. Also, finalizing details regarding our healthcare directives was also extremely insightful. After two more meetings and an email, the process was completed. I now can go through my life knowing that my husband, siblings, and parents will be protected and cared for if something happens to me. Also, I live each day knowing that if something does happen to me, my family and loved ones can spend time celebrating my life instead of hiring attorneys, having conflicts amongst themselves, or spending one moment wondering how to create my legacy. By establishing my estate plan I have defined my legacy and if you have ever met me you know I like a good plan. Mission accomplished.

If you would like to talk with me about my experience or including Southwest Health in your plans, reach out by calling me 608.342.4704 or emailing richtert@southwesthealth.org.

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