Estate Planning vs. Root Canal

2 min
at 11:43 PM

What’s the difference between a root canal and estate planning? Les Bloch says less than you think.

Let’s start with a root canal and work our way back. Your tooth hurt for months but you drank your daily cup of denial and now it’s a hammering throb. You don’t want to be here, but now you’re in the chair, jaws strained, the peculiar smell of grinding bone filling your senses. When it’s over, you exhale a sigh of relief.

What do Prince, Abe Lincoln, Pablo Picasso and Howard Hughes have in common? Nope, it’s not root canals, but something just as dreaded. They all died without wills or trusts. In simple language they did not plan the end game of their estate.

I recently became the executor/trustee for my parents’ estate and trust. While not particularly large, it involves property, trust disbursements and the dreaded ‘p’ word — probate — that state-triggered process that acts as a structured legal will for anything left out of the trust. Probate is slow, lengthy, expensive and avoidable. Remember the root canal? Okay, talking about what happens after you’re dead is as much fun as... wait, that’s how I started this piece.

It’s easy to just say, “What do I care? I’ll be dead.” Any conversation which has this as a possible response explains why we’d all rather binge on Netflix. But just like your oral health, ignoring what will happen to your home and assets ends up costing you and your loved ones time, money and anguish in the long run.

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Make an appointment with an attorney and go through the process, and commit to a will or trust. Maybe you don’t have kids. Well, here’s your opportunity to direct your estate to specific members of your extended family, or to friends, or to a women’s shelter. Without filing the legal paperwork, the state will step in and take their cut and pay out based on an inheritance chart. Wouldn’t you rather use your estate to say and do what really comes from your heart?

So let’s all go sit in the chair -- your lawyer’s not your endodontist’s -- and make a legit will or trust. And while you’re at it, how about cleaning out your garage?

With a Perspective, I’m Les Bloch

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Les Bloch is a musician, writer and project manager in the East Bay.

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