Aesop, the ancient Greek writer of fables, lived between 620 BC and 564 BCE. He was a contemporary of Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch— the “Greek Greats!” It is mostly philosophy and history majors who have actually read the Greek Greats. They are not always easy to understand. But Aesop’s Fables are different. Aside from being deceptively simple they are subject to interpretation which has enabled them to endure 2,500 years! They were taught in grade school. Many of us read them, and I got a double dose in English and French. I don’t know if children read these anymore, but they should.
Best known is the story of the ant and the grasshopper. There are many versions, but the basic facts are the same: The ant, an industrious creature, spent his summer harvesting the foods he needed to survive, and then storing them in his den. The grasshopper spent his summertime playing the fiddle, and having a great time, but not thinking at all that the beautiful summer could end and then he would be cold and hungry because he had failed to lay away stores or prepare for a cold winter. He didn’t even create a place to live. The general gist of the story is that eventually the grasshopper is freezing and without food or shelter as the winter closes in while the ant is warm, sheltered and cozy. Some of the versions end in tragedy. In those, the grasshopper begs the ant to let him into his warm home and asks for food. The ant basically says, “See you later.” In other versions the ant takes pity on the grasshopper and the grasshopper learns a lesson. Work and save now and you will be comfortable when times are tough; or hard work pays off. It is a moral allegory about the consequences of failure to work.
Once I became an Elder Law attorney I decided upon my version. It could be called “The Ant and the Procrastinating Grasshopper.” The ant is the client who really wants to set his legal home in order for his benefit, and the benefit of his children. He or she creates an estate plan to dispose of his assets in an orderly way before death; but more importantly addresses the issue of what happens if he lives into the “winter” of his or her life by saving enough to live reasonably well in old age, or by realizing that he or she will need more help in older age than he can afford; So this person prepares with a plan. Each person’s plan is individual to them; but in general, long term care insurance may be purchased; and funds are protected “just in case” there isn’t enough to support and sustain this person.
The grasshopper is the client who is forewarned about what could happen in the future but who believes “it will not be him.” Or he or she decides to do nothing about a future needing care and leaves it up to his children to “deal with it.” This is the client who refuses to plan at all—and we all understand that a” failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Ordinarily it is the children of these “grasshoppers” who come into the office, desperate to help Mom or Dad with few or dwindling resources. At this point a devastating illness, like Alzheimer’s, MS or Parkinson’s has taken over, and “something” must be done. Fast. In these circumstances we Elder Law attorneys informing with clients about what is called “last minute planning.” This is often relates to the home that the client has saved for, that could be lost to liens on it due to a need for long-term care. This is client who winds up spending more than he would have spent if he had planned earlier; and ends up where he does not want to be –in the nursing home because there is no longer any alternative. This is the client who says, I don’t care, I’m spending it all; and I don’t want a trust, even if it could help me now—I’ll wait…and wait…and wait… And then it is too late to save much beyond the life of the person involved. And maybe because he or she hasn’t worked through planning to avoid probate his estate lands in the probate court, and the children squabble over whatever is left.
Moral of the story, be an ant, not a grasshopper. Prepare for the winter of your life through estate and elder law planning. We are here at Lannik Law to help you do that.