I’m writing this book for two reasons. The first is my father. You see, like most Americans, he always put off estate planning, and whenever I asked, he always replied, “Too complicated. Not right now. Besides, I’m not going to die tomorrow.”
The second reason is my own battle with cancer. Coming face-to-face with one’s inevitable mortality is a frightening thing, at any age. It forces you to confront unwelcome, uncomfortable thoughts. And in my case, it prompted me to take another look at my estate plans to ensure everything was covered and current. The last thing I want to do is make things more painful for my loved ones.
You see, creating a will is one of the most important acts you can take to assure the peace and security of your family and those you care about. Think of it as a loss prevention tool.
And believe me, my dad lost a lot when he passed without a will.
To start, he lost the one thing he valued almost as much as life itself: control. He lost all control of everything. He left my mother and me to guess his intent for the assets we found in his name. I quickly learned that the phrase, “He would have wanted it that way” was shorthand for “I’m going to take a guess and pray that I’m right.”
He lost the ability to prevent something that would have made him cringe: paying taxes needlessly. Even a simple will could have avoided the excessive taxes on his estate, and taxes paid by those who benefited from his estate, like my mother.
He lost the ability to carry his legacy into the future, because without a will, he couldn’t include gifts to support the causes he loved — like charities that work to improve health care in Armenia, eliminate hunger, or protect and preserve eyesight.
But the loss that I regret most was that I didn’t have a chance to peacefully reflect on his life right after his passing. His sudden death spun us into a whirlwind of decisions and paperwork that, had he planned, could have been calmly and systematically dealt with well ahead of time. I so much wish that at the time of his passing, we could have focused more on him, and not the next form to fill out.
So, in celebration of my father, Diran Mikaelian, MD, let’s make his losses your gain. Maybe his whole idea was for me to write this book so that you can learn from his mistake?
Yeah, let’s go with that and say, “He would have wanted it that way.”
Chapter 1 (to come)
When was the last time you thought about estate planning? Are you thinking, like so many, “I’m not famous. I don’t have big bucks. So, what’s the point?” Oh, there are a lot of points…