Labor Day weekend was shaping up nicely. My wife was going out of town for the weekend. A lot had been going on, and a trip out of town would be great. Friday at noon I decided to ride my motorcycle to the Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore located in South Dakota.
Now I do not ride my motorcycle all that often — maybe once or twice a year. It is a 1997 Yamaha, and it is nestled in a storage shed I rent with a friend. Because of its location, it is easy to forget.
To the shed I went. I tried to start the motorcycle. The battery was drained (it was a new battery I had just purchased “last year”). I tried to jump it. No luck. I tried to charge it. No luck. I took it to the dealer, and he looked up the battery. Rather than buying it last year, I discovered I bought it in 2012 — three years earlier. The dealer agreed to put a charge on it, but I would have to wait overnight, thus delaying my trip. I went home, packed my motorcycle bag and got everything ready for the next day.
The next day arrived. I had to wait until 9 a.m. to pick up my battery. I was told the battery would not hold a charge. I purchased a new one, put it into my motorcycle, only to discover the clutch had leaked, needed bleeding and I could not get it into gear. The dealer’s service department was closed for the Labor Day weekend. End of trip.
I share this with you because I find that something similar happens frequently in my practice. Just last week a client came in with a “great” estate plan. It probably was, in 1996 when it was prepared.
Certainly since 1996 (and even in the last few years), there have been many changes in laws that affect estate plans: taxation, powers of attorney, living wills, health care powers of attorney, privacy issues and so on. My own estate plan, prepared in 2000, has undergone substantial revisions, in part because of changing laws.
Changes might be necessary because of shifting family dynamics: death, divorce, births and financial problems. All of these can affect an estate plan.
There have been other changes as well. I have jokingly told my clients the old estate plan I prepared for them would work just fine if they would just do one thing: die.
The realities of the world are people in our country are living longer. Not only are they living longer, they are living longer with chronic illness. A significant percentage of the elderly population is actually living with five or more chronic illnesses.
Most of the estate plans I prepared years ago did not address this possibility. They were estate plans that were designed on how to transfer your property if you died. They did not address what would happen if you lived a long time, possibly in some type of institutional setting or with a chronic illness.
Today we spend a significant amount of time with our clients talking about those issues; quality of life; end of life; paying for care; how not to outlive your money; and protection of assets should long-term care be needed. We call it long-term planning.
Preparing an estate plan and putting it away is not a good solution. You need to review it yourself, as well as review it every couple of years with your attorney. The laws change. You change. Your health changes. Your family changes.
I do not know about you, but my goals and aspirations at 61 years of age are certainly different than they were when I was 30.
Please do not let yourself or your family discover that your estate plan does not work when you are “ready to get on that motorcycle and ride.”
Back to my story. After I was disappointed about not being able to leave on my motorcycle trip, I took my motorcycle bag that was all packed up, called a friend, and we went out to his place to stay overnight and hunt doves. This was my first time without my hunting dogs. Perhaps it was good to face that loss.
Please review your estate plan. If you have questions, see a qualified attorney. Do not miss your opportunity for a great motorcycle trip.
Randy Clinkscales founded
Clinkscales Elder Law Practice
in 1985. He is a 1980 graduate of Washburn Law School and has represented clients at the administrative, county, state and federal levels.