It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle

January 10, 2018 Ian Hull Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Hull on Estates, Hull on Estates, Power of Attorney, Trustees, Uncategorized, Wills Tags: , 0 Comments

One quality often overlooked in this frantic information era of texts, tweets, and instagrams is clarity. Our communications and responses are faster than ever, and you’ve likely seen first-hand how clarity can suffer. In a perfect world, we’d have a friend by our side objectively reviewing each communication and setting us straight when our message wasn’t clear.

“Don’t put it that way – it sounds like you’re angry,” or “It’s not clear where you’re meeting, better spell it out.”

Of course, there is no objective friend by our side 24/7. And in our daily back and forth with friends and family, the lack of an objective voice usually doesn’t matter. If there is confusion, it’s easily resolved by a follow-up message. We may live inside our own little bottles, but reading the label “right” the first time doesn’t matter that much in our day-to-day living.

Clarity in estate planning – get outside the bottle

But what about communications that can have a more profound impact, like our estate plan, where we detail our final wishes for end-of-life care and the distribution of our assets? There are few tasks in which clarity is more important. You can’t send a final “clarifying” text from the grave, so you have one chance to get it right. And if you don’t have objective, outside advice, it’s remarkably easy to get it wrong. What is crystal clear to you may not be to others.

The recent case of a dying Florida man is an excellent example. The 70-year-old man was found intoxicated and unconscious outside of his nursing home. When doctors took off his shirt, they found the words “Do not resuscitate” tattooed on his chest, with a tattooed signature underneath:

While the message was quite clear on its face, doctors faced a dilemma. They had an unconscious, dying man in front of them, with a tattoo that told them to take no further action. Was this what the patient truly wanted? Was it a legally valid instruction, or an ironic joke? Doctors were aware of a case reported in a medical journal where a man had “DNR” tattooed on his chest and was admitted to hospital. When doctors saw the tattoo, they asked him if that was indeed his wish, and he said it wasn’t at all – he had lost a bet in a poker game and the tattoo was the result.

So, when it comes to your own planning, make clarity a priority. Objective, professional advice can ensure that your “message to the world” about your estate will both reflect your wishes and be read accurately by others. Take a look at the four-step approach taken by Toronto firm Creaghan McConnell Group in helping Canada’s leading families preserve and pass on wealth. Their step number one? Family clarity.

Make it your priority too – and take a pass on the tattoos!

Thank you for reading,
Ian Hull

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