Jan Copley: Hi. My name is Jan Copley. I live and practice in Pasadena, California. I have handled hundreds of estate plans, creating them, settling them when somebody comes sick or somebody dies. In the course of doing that, I have managed to save families hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes. I’ve also managed to help people save their homes and their retirement benefits from going to pay for long‑term medical care in a convalescent hospital.
Very often when I tell people I do estate planning, I get the response of, “I don’t have an estate.” I thought I give you three short stories today about the emotional benefits of estate planning for both the people who die and for the survivors. The first story I have is a couple of clients came in, a husband and wife. The husband was the more dominant partner. It was very, very clear that his chief goal was to make sure that his wife was cared for both financially and that the right people were doing it.
Over time, she developed dementia, and he became ill. The family tells me that in his last days he expressed great satisfaction and peace by knowing that his wife was care for and that the right people were looking after her. That’s exactly the case. After he died, she had tremendous care from those people for the rest of her life. The second story I want to tell is the story for the benefit of a survivor.
I was working with a woman, and we spent quite a bit of time working on her advanced healthcare directive, including the instructions in case she was finally ill or fatally ill. As it turns out, she did have an aneurysm and she died. The daughter came in. Oh, a couple of weeks after her mother died and said, “I thank you so much for putting together that advanced healthcare directive with the clear instructions. Because it told me what my mother wanted, when she couldn’t communicate it. I made the decisions that I needed to make, and I am at peace with the decisions that I needed to make.”
So tremendous benefit for the survivor. The third story I wanted to tell is of a husband and wife. They came in to see me. He was working. She was staying at home taking care of their three children. At the time that they came to see me, one child was in junior high, one was in elementary school, and one was a baby.
About 10 years later, he died quite suddenly. Because of the good estate planning that we did in coordination with his financial planner, now his eldest child is a senior at Caltech on full scholarship. The other two children are going to expensive private schools in Pasadena and receiving tremendous education. Widow has been able to continue to stay at home and be a full‑time mom staying in her home and has a stream of income for the rest of her life, which is sufficient to support her for the rest of her life.
In that case I know that that’s what he wanted. The estate planning was such that they were able to maintain their lifestyles and meet their goals for themselves and their children. I hope that if you give me the glib pass off that, “Oh, I don’t have an estate,” maybe these emotional stories will be helpful to you. Thanks very much.