If you think “estate planning” is something only rich people need to do, think again!
Do you know who would have guardianship over your children if something tragic were to happen to you? Do you know what your aging Mom or Dad’s end-of-life wishes are? Do you even have a will; do your aging parents? If you answered NO to any or all of these questions, welcome to the woefully unprepared majority.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but even here at A&L, neither my Mom nor I have done any estate planning. But in our pathetic attempt at a defense, neither of us has much in terms of assets, far too much (student loan) debt, and no children under 18. Why would either of us need to worry about estate planning?
As it turns out, we should be very worried! It was our ignorance to what estate planning actually is that has kept us unprepared for life’s less-than-pleasant events. But no longer! It’s time to get schooled, and who better than a lawyer who specializes in estate planning?
So today we bring you a special interview with Catherine Hodder, Esq. We talk about some of the highlights of estate planning and about her new book, “Estate Planning for the Sandwich Generation: How to Help Your Parents and Protect Your Kids,” which is – in my opinion – a must-read for anyone who is, well, going to die someday or has anyone in their life who likewise is mortal. All humor aside, this a very accessible and informative book about estate planning, written by a lawyer who thankfully knows how to write in plain English.
Before moving on to the interview, I just want to note that A&L are not financially affiliated with Ms. Hodder or her (awesome) new book, and none of the links on this page benefit us at all. We read the book and genuinely think it would help most, if not all, of our loyal readers. Enough housekeeping – to the interview!
How did you get into estate planning?
“ My background was actually in banking and corporate law. I took a break from the law when I started having children. Around this time, my father was having health and memory issues and was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In helping him and my mother navigate medical and financial issues, it became clear to me how important estate planning was to help our family care for my father. After he passed, I went into private practice which focused on estate planning. From my experiences, I am drawn to help other families prepare them for future life events and protect their family.
You’ve just written a book, congratulations! What made you decide to write “Estate Planning for the Sandwich Generation”?
“ You know the book “What to Expect When You Are Expecting,” which is helpful to parents-to-be? I thought there should be a similar book of “What to Expect When You Are Expecting the Worst” for caregivers. People who have kids and aging parents have little time to become educated on estate planning. Oftentimes, they are hit with something, like a sick parent or an accident, and they are totally unprepared for the challenges.
I found the books currently out there are either “do it yourself” (which is not a good idea) or way too technical and people don’t have the time to read it. I wanted an easy, approachable book to help caregivers get up to speed quickly.
Why do you think so many people delay estate planning, and what’s the best way to get started?
“ I think people don’t get around to estate planning because they don’t understand enough about it. It can seem very daunting. But once I explain to clients how estate planning works, how the documents help them, and what problems they are solving by proper planning, they are ready to do it! And then they wonder why they didn’t do it sooner!
The best place to start is to talk to an estate planning attorney. They have so much experience with different families and situations, they will make it easy for you and they can tailor something for your family’s particular circumstances. It is tempting to do it yourself but that can invite a whole host of troubles.
What is the most important piece of estate planning advice you would give to our readers?
“ The best piece of advice I can give is to communicate with your family. Ask your parents about their end-of-life wishes, tell your loved ones how you would want to be cared for if you were incapacitated, share important legal & medical information with them. Too many times, a family member who handles the finances becomes incapacitated and the family is lost. Or a loved one has an end-stage terminal illness and family members can’t agree on what medical intervention should be done. Even information such as where a will or life insurance policy is located help those left behind. Communication is key.
How can our readers get a copy of your book?
We hope you enjoyed our conversation with Catherine! We encourage you to think seriously about getting your estate planning in order as soon as you can. Finally, please stay in touch with what Catherine’s doing on her website and on various social media, where she shares very useful information (see below).
–Good luck, we’re all gonna need it!