Even though I am approaching 18 years since my first day in law school I clearly remember Professor Stone lecturing us about his expectations. He summed up his philosophy of the law with one simple statement. He said never make a case based on what is fair, just, or reasonable as those words lack any true definition. Decisions made on what is “fair” will virtually always be seen as unfair to another person. You must make sure you are making the right decision for the right reason. A reason in which you can state with a clear purpose and meaning. Professor Stone lacked any tolerance for ambiguity. Through my practice and well as in my personal life I have determined in nearly all circumstances he is correct.
How do we apply this to our life or more directly to our estate plan? If you feel something would be unfair determine ask yourself why you feel that way. Is it your situation or asset to control? If it isn’t your situation or asset to control then you’re yelling likely means nothing. You can look to see if a rule or law has been broken for relief from that situation. On the other hand, if the situation is yours to control then pay attention to who thinks it is unfair. Better yet try to restate your reason or decision. For example say: I desire to leave equal amounts to all my children, or I desire to provide more for this child because I believe it is the right thing to do regardless of what others may think. This might not be seen as fair but this child has a disability, or this child received an 8-year education while this person paid for his education with scholarships. Know you have the right to determine where and how your estate will be administered.
We place so much pressure and guilt into situations which do not require it. Make a decision. Don’t worry if it is perfect because it will likely never be perfect. I bet you have heard the young couple who says they are waiting till they have “enough money” before having a child and yet they have been married for 8 years. When it comes to estate planning many people wait to have everything perfectly lined up before making a plan. What parents learn is there is never enough money, the time is never perfect, and the right amount normally has more to do with having the right amount of willpower to stand by your decision. I find more people stress over hurting someone’s feelings than they do over what the overall purpose of the gift is in the first place. So don’t worry if it is fair. Don’t worry if it is perfect. Few things in life are. If you later determine that it was incorrect then change it. You can change direction; you can change what you want to happen with your estate. Take a deep breath and know by following this tip you are being fair to yourself. In the end, that is better because it will allow you to release that weight and become a better parent, friend, or child.
Be good to yourself.
That’s the message from Andrew Tisch, chairman of Loews Corporation, co-founder of the political reform group No Labels, and Vice Chair of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.
In a recent article, Mr. Tisch describes how we are unprepared for the enormous costs we will soon be facing from a huge upswing in our aging population and the resulting number of Alzheimer’s patients.
As he points out, in 2010 there were 11.4 million Americans over the age of 80. By the year 2050, due to the power of modern medicine, there will be over 32 million. But amid that laudable success is a glaring problem: One in two people who reach their 80s will get Alzheimer’s, and the American health care system isn’t even remotely prepared to deal with that.
The annual cost to care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is already $226 billion, with Medicare and Medicaid picking up 68% of the costs. If recent trends continue, he states, the annual cost of Alzheimer’s could reach $1 trillion, in current dollars, by 2050, costing Medicare and Medicaid almost $700 billion—about one-fifth of the federal government’s current budget.
Mr. Tisch calls for Washington to dramatically increase the amount of federal money going to Alzheimer’s research. While disease research of all kinds is worthy and important, he states, Alzheimer’s stands apart for the destruction it wreaks on families and finances. Five million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s and the disease’s impact spreads far beyond those who
have it. Every person with Alzheimer’s requires three people—children, spouses, friends and health care workers—to serve as caregivers. This can be a full-time job, and it often takes a financial, emotional and physical toll on the caregivers and their families.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) allocated almost $1 billion to Alzheimer’s research last year, but funding is behind what researchers need and what other diseases already receive. The treatments available now only treat symptoms and do not prevent, slow or reverse the disease. Researchers believe a significant boost in funding could lead to breakthroughs in the coming
years. Dr. Greg Petsko of Weill Cornell Medical College states that “if NIH doubled research funding for Alzheimer’s tomorrow, it would kick the whole machinery of grant making and academic and pharmaceutical company research into a higher gear.”
President Trump’s budget proposal includes an 18% cut to the NIH budget as part of a broader effort to slash discretionary spending. However, a bipartisan group of a dozen senators have written a letter to President Trump asking him to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research. As Mr. Tisch puts it, a potential cure for Alzheimer’s should not go undiscovered for lack of a few billion dollars in a $4 trillion-dollar annual budget.
Jason A. Waddell is a Board Certified Florida Elder Law Attorney who practices on the Panhandle of Florida.