HOLISTIC ESTATE PLANNING - Tips for planning your life, legacy and death with grace and compassion f
Updated: Mar 31
HOLISTIC ESTATE PLANNING PRESENTATION - given to the Art of Aging and Art of Dying Lecture Series at the Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita, Oregon
Good afternoon, my name is Sarah Smyth McIntosh. I am your local estate planning attorney in Manzanita. I have been practicing for over 30 years in Washington state and when we purchased a second home here in Manzanita was prompted by many in the business community to obtain my Oregon license to practice and open a branch office here in Manzanita. My office is located in a lovely art Gallery at 144 Laneda Ave across from the Sand Dune Pub. I live and work in the same building and it’s a lovely space to meet with my clients. I have exclusive use of the office during the week, and then on the weekends everything is locked up, confidential information is secured and the gallery is opened to the public. It’s been a wonderful experience reconnecting with my original purpose of becoming a lawyer, that is, solving problems for people, and it is especially gratifying to do this work here in this small village with so many wonderful people.
So, what is Holistic Estate Planning, and how am I going to spend the next 2 hours with you discussing this topic? Well, Holistic estate planning, is not just a topic about whether to have a will or a trust, or about getting your financial life in order and passing on your assets to your loved ones.
It’s about YOU, it’s about your life, your legacy and yes, your death!
As we age, we need to think about what our end of life may look like, and this includes how you want to plan for your end of life, who you want to surround you and how you can provide the most peaceful and serene circumstances to leave this earth. It’s about everything that leads up to your death, and yes, your death as well.
This is not just about how you live life now, and how you will live in retirement. It’s not just about good financial planning, it’s also about good elder care planning. What happens when you do get older and do need assistance at home, or have to find another place to live where you can receive 24-hour care.
Where will you live, who will be around you to help you as you age, do you have a plan for in-home care? Who can help you when you are older and need caregiver services, maybe even 24- hour caregiver services, as well as some in-home skilled nursing visits, when needed. Who will help you with your financial affairs (paying bills, organizing your estate plan). Who are the professionals, such as your attorney, your CPA/ and or bookkeeper who can help you with these matters?
HOLISTIC ESTATE PLANNING is taking charge of your life in all areas of your life and death- Frankly, it just being a responsible human being to yourself, and to those around you upon your death, your friends and family and neighbors and fellow villagers. Many don’t want to plan for or think about death, they say “I’ll be dead, what do I care”. Well, that is both selfish and unkind for those loved ones you leave behind, and it’s also irresponsible.
SO WHAT IS HOLISTIC ESTATE PLANNING – IT ABOUT PLANNING FOR YOUR WHOLE SELF – your mind, your body, your spirit, your life and death. These aspects of Holistic estate planning include the following elements.
HEALTH – mind and body – How are you caring for yourself now, how are you preparing both your mind and body for the later years of your life? How are you taking care of your whole self? Your spiritual, mental and physical self?
SPIRITUAL – What are your spiritual beliefs, and how do you want your life lessons, and life’s purpose represented upon your death. What are your life’s conclusions about the ethic and integrity with which you have lived your life and what life lessons you would like to pass down to the next generation? How do you want these spiritual beliefs represented in your own memorial? It is very important to write down how you feel about your own memorial for the benefit of those loved ones you are leaving behind to plan a memorial to honor your life.
FINANCIAL – Your Financial Plan during your life and your Estate Plan for disposition of your estate at your death. Whether it’s a Will or Trust or other probate avoidance mechanisms such as Transfer on Death agreements for stock brokerage accounts, beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, Payable on Death designations for bank accounts or Revocable Living Trusts or Transfer on Death Deeds for your Real Property interests assets. Consider also your elder care planning for in-home caregiver services, medical assistance (in-home skilled nursing), physical therapy, home maintenance, personal assistance for grocery shopping, meal preparation, housekeeping, pet care, etc.
EMOTIONAL – How are you feeling emotionally, now, and what are you concerned about for your future, what is still unresolved in your past, and what can you do to bring peace into your life and sustain that sense of well-being into the future as you age.
SOCIAL – How do you interact with your village, your family, your friends? Do you have a good balance of friends and family that you interact with on a daily weekly and monthly basis?
INTELLECTUAL – What are your passions in life, and how do you engage your mind in pursuing those passions?
ENVIRONMENTAL – Where do you live, what kind of environment surrounds you? Do you have a scared space where you can regroup, de-stress, and connect with your spiritual and emotional needs?
OCCUPATIONAL – Are you still working? Do you need to still work, or do you want to still work? how does this plan for your occupational life help other facets of your Holistic estate plan?
HOLISTIC ESTATE PLANNING is a is a Checklist of Your Life and your Death – In the next two hours I’m going to talk a little bit about the basics of Holistic estate planning, and give you a number of checklists to take home with you to engage in the exercise of Holistic estate planning. Then we are going to open this up for further discussion and break out into groups based on specific subjects to help further facilitate this matter.
ELDER CARE PLANNING - I’ve asked Carolyn Walters to join us today. She is a retired surgical nurse who has moved to Rockaway recently with her daughter and granddaughter, and opened a new in-home caregiver business called Coastal Care. I had the pleasure of meeting Carolyn when I had the need for caregiver services for my 93 -year old Father, when my 92- year old mother had a stroke on New Year’s Day. Carolyn was just starting her business and I was one of her first clients. She was loving, kind and compassionate with my father, who suffers from dementia, but is physically quite capable. He was sad and missing my mother while she rehabilitated from her stroke and while we regrouped with what to do next and how to get the necessary in-home care in place for both of them back in Olympia, we needed 24- hour care due to the fact that my mother had had a stroke and she had also the primary caregiver for my father.
Carolyn was marvelous. She came in to care for my father while he was staying with us in Manzanita, and I was working during the day. She could do everything from taking his vitals, review his medications, to taking him to the doctor, taking care of his personal care, as well as taking him out for walks to the beach, drives to the jetty to get a crab, or just go out for lunch. She would spend time with him, talk with him about his life, watch his favorite western with him and she also did some light housekeeping and helped me with preparation of the meals. She was kind and considerate to all the family and supportive of the family members as well as my father.
We couldn’t be luckier to have such a well-educated and accomplished young lady starting and in-home care service here in Manzanita, because there are not many other alternatives besides friends and family for in-home care and or hospice in this community. The Adventist hospital has an in-home caregiver services, with limited ability to provide in-home care, and the hospital also has hospice services, but as I understand it, 24- hour in-home care must be in place first before, the skilled nurses with hospice will be set up for visits.
So, first, make plans for your own in-home care or visit assisted living facilities or adult homes that might be an alternative for you, if you need 24-hour care in the future. We should all plan for this possible eventuality and not leave this important part of holistic estate planning unplanned!
So, what about the actual nuts and bolts of estate planning? How does one prepare the information needed to prepare a will? Can you do it yourself? Should you do it yourself without the assistance of an attorney or an online legal service such as Legal Zoom.com? What alternatives to having to have a will are there? Do you own real property?
So let’s discuss the options and alternatives for estate planning.
First, let’s discuss the difference between having a will and having a trust, what called a revocable living trust
Do you own real property with a gross fair market value of worth more than $200,000? If the answer is yes, how do you want that property managed during your life and after your death who do you want the property to go to and how do you want it cared for and by whom? The answer to all these questions will often dictate the outlines of your estate plan.
What if you don’t own real property anymore, and you rent your home now, and have a small estate (everyone thinks they have a small estate until they fill out my simple estate planning questionnaire), do you need a will or a trust then?
Well, if you have personal property worth more than $75,000, then you need a method to distribute this property after your death.
Small Estate Affidavit. If you have real property worth less than, $200,000 and personal property worth less than $75,000, then there is an alternative probate procedure for small estates. It’s called a small estate affidavit, and a relative and or heir of the estate may use this mechanism to probate the estate and transfer title to both the real and personal property.
Transfer on Death Deed. Use of a Transfer on Death deed is another great alternative to probate, and it allows you to designate who you want your real property to go to upon your death. There is an 18- month creditor waiting period to make sure that the creditors of your state are paid first then your real property can be transferred to your desired heirs upon your death.
Will versus Revocable Living Trust - this choice for your estate plan is really dependent upon the nature of your assets and the desire for the disposition of your assets upon your death. If you own real property in one state or in multiple states, both for your personal use and maybe also for investments, then a revocable living trust is advisable, especially if you would like to transfer management of these assets during your life to your successor trustee while you still enjoy living in your home. I have prepared a short handout on the pros and cons of having a will versus a trust and the alternatives to both as well as a handout on how to title your other assets such as Retirement accounts and Bank accounts and life insurance and stock brokerage accounts so that you can also avoid a probate and plan for the disposition of these assets consistent with your desired estate plan.
Estate Taxes – I will also touch on briefly issues related to proper estate tax planning and provide you with a simple estate tax planning checklist, but an extensive discussion of estate tax planning is outside the scope of this presentation.