Perhaps there is something about the finality of writing a will for older people. Kind of like when they are forced to check into a nursing home and know their ailments will never allow them to leave. Most go fighting and kicking.
We have been working on my parents farm so long our children are now a part of the farming operation. Yet, the only land we own is some we’ve purchased on our own over the years, but the majority is with my parents. My mom has early signs of dementia and my dad has had two heart surgeries and has a bad knee. We’ve been able to take care of them here, but who knows how long?
We still don’t know what is in their will – or even ‘if’ they have a will. I don’t think so because the story changes so many times.
With all of this facing them, why don’t they do something?
– Perplexed with Parents
Dear Perplexed with Parents:
It’s an odd thing surely – unless you happen to be in their shoes and know what they are thinking or, more likely, feeling.
Initially, I’m sure it started as just plain old procrastination. “We’ll get around to it one of these days when we have time, when we know what we want to do, when the it’s a rainy day, when I’m not too busy shoveling grain – or snow.”
Then it turns into, “Well, we’ll see how sonny does here working on the farm. If times get tough, I’ll send him down the road so he can have a real life without all the stress of farming.”
I really believe that’s the number one reason for farmers not making a will or an estate plan.
“I don’t want to be the one to blame if this farm has a failure – of which we’ve come close many, many times before – and my son or daughter has to leave the farm and find another job. I don’t want them angry or hurt with me, and most of all, I don’t want to have to look in the mirror and know it was my doing they took this risk with their life and it didn’t work out.”
“Now, I just sit back and let things play out, see how the kid does when s/he comes back to the farm and tries it on for a living. But I’ve seen them struggle too, and I still don’t want to be accountable if they can’t make it.”
That’s the way it starts – especially for those old enough to remember the post-depression years or heard stories of how tough things were back then.
Later on, it turns into something else entirely. As we get older and come closer and closer to mortality, i.e., close friends have died, neighbors have died, your older siblings start dying – then it gets to be an entirely different feeling altogether.
Aretha Franklin just died and died without a will. The same was true of Prince, although I don’t think he and Aretha Franklin were in the same stage of life. In any case, Aretha Franklin’s estate is supposed to be in the tens of millions, she has four kids and she’s going to allow the state of Michigan to probate her will in front of anyone who wants to take the time to look up how the proceedings went. No privacy, maximum estate taxation and eventually heirs arguing about how things should be decided.
Her estate attorney talked to her many, many times about setting up a will or a trust to avoid issues – even up to days before her recent illness that claimed her life – all to no avail.
Perhaps there is something about the finality of writing a will for older people. Kind of like when they are forced to check into a nursing home and know their ailments will never allow them to leave. Most go fighting and kicking. Maybe that’s the same “feeling” they have when they write a will, knowing it’s the last thing they’ll leave on this earth.
Last will and testament – kind of a scary string of words. Maybe it would be easier if we call it “instructions should I die someday” to take some of the fear out of it. I prefer “business plan for the future” because that’s what a good estate plan is. It’s a day to day blueprint of what all your tomorrows need to be – and if not, we change the plan.