By Justine Parkinson | Photo by Jessica McCafferty
Issue: August 2022
End of life planning. Nothing can stall a conversation more quickly than bringing that subject up. It’s not something most people want to think about, but all too often people haven’t had these vital conversations when, sadly, it’s too late. Talking with your loved ones about your wishes and formalizing them into an end-of-life plan can relieve your family of a huge burden when they are already coping with a dramatic loss.
I recently sat down with attorney Gary Favro of Favro Law in Plattsburgh. In practice for upwards of 40 years and currently in partnership with his eldest son Matthew, Favro has served as Plattsburgh City Court Judge and currently serves as a Federal Judge for the Northern District of New York which comprises 32 counties north of Albany.
In our conversation Favro shared some of the Dos and Don’ts of the end-of-life planning process.
What Is the Number One DO?
Do it now, not later! Taking care of end-of-life planning while you’re young and making whatever changes you need to as your family and relationships evolve is really the best way to handle your affairs.
What is the Number One DON’T?
Don’t accept the one size fits all premise of online services. In today’s technological age one might be prone to ask the gurus of popular on-line search engines for information. Those tools can be useful for gathering information, but when it comes to making decisions, nothing beats the affirming conversation with an expert in the field whose only purpose to advocate for you and your wishes.
DO make sure to take your time.
The idea is to not make decisions hastily. Talk about it with your spouse or partner and your family and loved ones. Make sure you are confident in the plans you set fourth and that they aren’t just a knee jerk reaction. When a young family thinks about who will raise their children in the event of their sudden passing, they might default to their own parents. That’s something that I really encourage people to think about. School age children who have just lost their parents and custody of them is given to their grandparents effectively means they’ve lost their grandparents as well. The role of grandparent is as special as it is supportive. When the grandparents are called upon to raise the children, they lose some of the privilege enjoyed by NOT being a custodial parent. Instead, I encourage parents to think of the lives of their children and what might make such a painful transition a little more seamless, creating stability in lieu of heartbreak. Are there options within your friend group or your neighborhood? Quite often these arrangements are made reciprocally. Once you’ve appointed a custodian for your children, share your decision with your extended family.
DON’T make avoidance-based decisions.
Often when people gather to make decisions and document their wishes, they are drive by tax planning. While it is important for everyone to do what they are comfortable with, I would like to empower people with the knowledge of what they’ve earned and encourage them not to make decisions based on avoiding taxes. There will be taxes no matter what, so do what you’re comfortable with in regard to tax planning, but don’t let it be the sole determining force.
DO make time to speak with an expert.
Financial planners, insurance agents, brokers and attorneys are all experienced in end-of-life planning. Without discounting the importance of finding someone you are comfortable with; it is worth considering whether the individual you choose is incentivized by the sale of a product — financial or otherwise. Once you’ve gathered all your pertinent information, an attorney can champion your best interests and goals as you make decisions.
Adovocatus is lawyer in Latin, also the root word for advocate. Synonyms are champion, supporter, proponent. You might think your interests are taken care of because you’ve designated a Power of Attorney, but that [POA] dissolves in the event of your death. There are so many considerations outside of financial or insurances questions that an attorney can help you navigate. If you own a business or are a shareholder in a business early planning is essential for the orderly transition of ownership and operation. There are also important considerations with regard to the transfer and protection of assets as you grow older. These issues should be addressed earlier than you might think.
The laws in New York State continue to evolve as relates to an individuals’ passing. Beneficiaries, executors, guardians, appointed agents for the disposition of remains and non-probate assets. These are the legal terms that most of us are not entirely familiar with. The decisions that need to be made and conversations that need to be had, go further than health care proxies, living will and advanced healthcare directives. There are end of life housing arrangements, funeral services and burial arrangements. Providing for children or pets might be intuitive, but what about digital assets? So much of our day to day lives are password protected, username based, in a cloud or a vault, or tucked away in some corner of the internet, and that doesn’t even take into consideration cryptocurrency assets. Those assets require different plans to access, and if you lose your private access key, those assets can never be recovered.
There is a wealth of information available on the internet and Favro supports individuals doing their own research so they can come to the advocate of their choice with informed questions. “If you are not comfortable with that individual, don’t feel beholden to them. Continue to look for someone you are comfortable with. Once you’ve found that person, you can begin to formalize and document your plans and enjoy the empowerment it gives you to know that everything is taken care of and the peace of mind that comes with completing this task.”
46 Court Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901