In the campaign to encourage more Americans to engage in advance planning for their retirement years and eventual passing, there is particular emphasis on the plans themselves — the paperwork, the computer files, the manila folders with color-coded tabs, etc.

Wills, living wills, advance directives, trusts… these are the nuts and bolts of an estate plan. And for aging Americans who want to prepare wisely for the years ahead, you might add bank accounts, budgets, insurance policies, retirement packages, Medicare/Medicaid applications, and more to the document-based “advance planning checklist.”Office desk

Unquestionably, all of those things are important, and they only scratch the surface when it comes to estate planning and elder law. But there’s a key ingredient to the whole process that can’t really be reduced to paper, and that’s communication.

As you plan, the people you talk to — and things you talk about — can make all the difference in how effective your preparations will ultimately become. In celebration of National Family Caregiving Month this November, the Institute for Family Studies invited a pastor to share his experiences with an elderly gentlemen he calls his “advance care planning hero.”

The man’s name (or pseudonym, at least) was Gus, and he was 90 years old. In his quest to leave his affairs in order, Gus dotted every single ‘i’ and crossed every single ‘t.’ He and his attorney team developed documents like true champs. They left no stone unturned.

But what really made Gus this pastor’s “planning hero” was a simple conversation — a lunch the pastor shared with Gus and his daughter, who doubled as his power of attorney and medical proxy. Together, the three talked about what they wanted for Gus’s family and their future. They set a vision that would inform the rest of his advance planning and keep everyone who mattered to Gus on the same page.

That kind of communication can make a profound difference in your own plans for the future. Too many families are hurled into strife by poor planning or a lack of communication. Assumptions and implications create clouds that only concise and direct conversations can dissipate.

When it’s time to put together your own advance healthcare plans and/or estate plans (and if you haven’t yet, it probably is time), start things off “the Gus way.” Talk to your loved ones and your close confidantes. Make sure you know what’s important to them, and that they have a clear sense of what matters to you.

Of course, there’s one other important conversation you’ll have in this whole process, and that’s the one you will have with us, your attorneys.

The Canton advance planning attorneys at Bixler Moore, LLC can help you craft an effective plan for the days ahead. We can even help you handle those sometimes-difficult conversations that will ultimately pay off for the people you love. We want to make the whole process as easy and as beneficial for you as possible.

Give us a call to find out what we can do for you and how you can get started. It’s a conversation worth having.

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