I was reminded last week of why estate planning is so important.
A woman passed away in her home and was found a few days later when her friends became concerned that they couldn’t get in touch with her. Her constant companions, her dogs, were in the house with her and had been unattended all that time. The dogs were taken to the animal shelter. Why were the dogs taken to the animal shelter? Because the woman had no will that gave anyone else authority to look after her dogs and find them a good home.
As difficult as it was to hear that the dogs were left in limbo by an owner who obviously loved them, but didn’t take the time to plan for them, the story got even more heartbreaking. This woman hadn’t even taken the time to plan for herself.
According to her friends, every time the subject of making a will came up, this woman refused to do so. Because she decided not to make a will or make pre-arranged funeral plans or even to leave any burial instructions at all, no one had authority to make funeral arrangements for her with a private funeral home. She had always told her friends that she didn’t have any family that she was close to and no one could find any information in her belongings to disprove that statement. By failing to plan ahead she had put herself in a position where her friends, who cared deeply for her, couldn’t help her and no family members, no matter how remote, could be readily identified.
I have often heard people say in jest that they don’t need to plan because they will be dead and therefore won’t have any worries. That may be true; however, the people and pets you leave behind will have plenty to worry about if you die tomorrow without putting an estate plan in place today.