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Estate Planning | Right Now is the Best Time to Prepare for the Unexpected

In the middle of a Georgia summer, the days are long and it seems like we’ve got more time for the things we enjoy. The kids are out of school, and work slows down a little. If we’re lucky, we get some extra time with our family, spend lazy days at the pool, and vacation with children and grandchildren. It can feel like summer will last forever.

James Miskell, Attorney at Law

But all along know that September is just around the corner. Another school year has begun and work will kick back into high gear. The kids will need school supplies and new clothes for school. All too soon, parents will find themselves crossing off items on the back-to-school list and standing in the check-out line. Fortunately, the schools publish a supply list for each grade so parents know exactly what is needed to be prepared on that first day of school.

Unlike the predictability of the end of summer and the back to school routine with its checklists, we have no way of knowing when the next stage of life will begin for our family. Will it be the death of a spouse or a long illness? Will it be the marriage of a child, the start of a new business, or an auto accident or lawsuit? Unfortunately, we don’t get a timetable with these events penciled in and a “to-do” list to guide us through how to handle them. Failing to plan before these events occur is one of the most serious threats to family financial security.

Big events and big changes require big decisions. A family that has not planned in advance will face those decisions in the heat of the moment, subject to the pressure of time and emotion–and perhaps with limited information. If you plan while you can–while you are healthy and have time–you can give your family a playbook to follow when life-altering events occur.

What should your plan look like? Do you need more than a will and a power of attorney? Does your family know your wishes for medical treatment? As you age or become ill, what benefits (Medicaid, VA) are available to you? Can you protect what you have earned from predators without losing control of your assets? Is a trust the best way to protect your assets? If so, what kind of trust?

The answers to these questions are different for every family. The first step is to begin the conversation with one another about what is most important for your family’s future.

Knowing that fall is coming shouldn’t make summer less enjoyable–the knowledge that fall is coming allows you to be prepared for all the events that fall brings. So enjoy your summer! Make the most of your time with the family. There is no better time to start a conversation about what is important to you when life’s changes unpredictably–but inevitably–occur.

James M. Miskell received his law degree from the University of Georgia in 1993. His Asset Protection, Estate Planning, and Elder Law practice have offices located in Lawrenceville and Johns Creek. He offers educational workshops and free consultations to assist clients as well as fellow professionals in creating individualized solutions. Visit his website: For more information, see his ad in this issue.