Since many people never get around to making a will, those who do may breathe a sigh of relief and even have a feeling of accomplishment. But what if something happens to you before you die that makes it necessary for loved ones to make decisions for you? Or what if someone you named in any of those documents is no longer your choice for the role you chose for them?
The best recent real life example of what can happen without proper planning is the story of Lamar Odom, the former NBA player, who married Khloe Kardashian in 2009. What might have been a minor news item when he was transported from a bordello while unconscious became major news because of his relationship with social media’s first family.
The lesson comes from Odom’s estate planning decisions, or lack thereof. The two had decided to part ways and signed their divorce papers in July. But due to a backlog of divorces filed in Los Angeles, the divorce was not yet final when Odom was hospitalized.
Many couples in the middle of a divorce think that any other legal matters that resulted from their marriage change as soon as they decide to divorce, or at least once the papers are filed. From insurance and retirement beneficiaries to a spouse designated to make decisions for them under a power of attorney when they are incapable themselves, filing for divorce, or even a finalized divorce, does not automatically change the others.
Because Odom and Kardashian were still married, his incapacity left her in charge of every decision he would otherwise make, from finances to medical treatment to even whether he survived. Without a living will, she would have had the ultimate say if doctors had said that he would never recover and recommended that his life be ended. Fortunately, in this situation, Odom regained consciousness and no such permanent decisions were required. But, instead of learning fashion trends from the Kardashians, this may actually be a valuable life lesson.
If you go through a life change such as divorce, make sure to reevaluate these documents and make changes if necessary. Each state has different laws, so a Florida resident should seek the advice of a Florida attorney to make sure that your estate planning documents are in order. You never know when you may need them.