Death is a topic that may make you feel uneasy, but planning for what happens after you pass away or fall ill is crucial. It ensures that your loved ones can focus on honoring your legacy rather than tying up loose ends.
Solutionaries looks at the important steps all adults should take. Scroll down to see a list of what you need to know about estate planning.
Rasha Awwad, 32, shared her struggles with the aftermath of her father’s death. Awwad’s father, Kamal, passed away in 2020 from an incurable infection in his blood. Unfortunately, he had not left a will or any legal documentation outlining his wishes. Awwad is now dealing with the legal system both in the United States and overseas in Jordan to obtain proxy rights for her family.
“After his passing, we didn’t really think about, you know, creating a will or any kind of, you know, legal documentation of what his wishes were. So now we’re kind of going through the system right now, both in the US and overseas in Jordan to get proxy rights,” Awwad said.
Awwad described her dad as a hardworking immigrant who built a successful restaurant in Syracuse, New York.
“My dad really kind of worked his way up in life. He used to work in a dish bay -- he learned all about the restaurant business and ended up opening up his own restaurant, which was very, very successful in the Southside of Syracuse,” she said. “He was a really hard worker. He had great character, great morals, great values, always provided -- we never went without anything.”
Since Kamal’s passing, Awwad has been trying to gain ownership of nearly five acres of land in her father’s name overseas in what was once Palestine/Israel. However, the legal system and the division of land between siblings have complicated the process.
“I think the most complicated part is the legal system over there. It gives male heirs a little bit more, a bigger piece of the pie, so to say,” Awwad said.
To shed light on the importance of estate planning, Solutionaries met with Sabina Bateh Kuruvilla, an estate planning attorney and part-owner of Joseph’s, a long-standing family restaurant in Jacksonville.
“Absolutely, every adult really needs an estate plan. And it’s a misunderstanding that it’s for the elderly and for the wealthy, or for someone who’s sick,” Kuruvilla said. “Estate planning really ranges from 18 up. And that doesn’t mean that an 18-year-old needs the same thing that a 65-year-old needs or a 75-year-old needs, or somebody who’s ill or extremely wealthy. But there are certain documents that every adult needs to have in place.”
Kuruvilla discussed the importance of choosing the right individuals to handle health care and financial decisions in case of incapacity.
“We want to think about who’s going to make health care decisions, and we want to think about who’s going to make financial decisions, and that doesn’t have to be the same person,” she said. “Those are the considerations as I may have one person in my life who’s really great with financial decisions, really great with money, but they would fall apart if they were making health care decisions for me, right? Or vice versa -- someone who’s really great at health care, and would like, you know, be calm during that process. But they can’t handle money to save their life.”
Kuruvilla and her firm Three Oaks Law created a checklist on estate and will planning:
- Start now, regardless of age.
- Understand your goals.
- Create a will.
- Consider a trust.
- Appoint guardians for minor children.
- Designate beneficiaries.
- Plan for incapacity.
- Charitable giving.
- Review and update regularly.
- Seek professional guidance.
Jacksonville certified financial planner William Vail said estate planning is an investment that pays off in the long run.
“If you’re working with a financial planner, that person will also work with an estate planner, as well to help you build a will, and determine where you want your assets to go,” he said. “That could be real estate, you know, business interests, any retirement accounts.”
Hiring an estate planning attorney typically costs between $1,000 to $4,000.
“It’s going to cost to create a will, right? But at the end of the day, that peace of mind and minimizing family conflicts when you do pass,” Vail said. “I think those benefits far, far exceed what it would cost you up front. I think we all work too hard to build wealth to have somebody make those decisions for you when you should be doing it for yourself.”
This article is part of “Solutionaries,” our continuing commitment to solutions journalism, highlighting the creative people in communities working to make the world a better place, one solution at a time. Find out what you can do to help at SolutionariesNetwork.com.