Planning When Times Are Good, vs.
Waiting For A Tragedy To Happen
Many People Plan When Things Are Good.
It takes a special kind of person to do their estate planning when everything is going right and everyone is healthy: this person wants to protect their family and their investments. This person also has and is willing to spend money on something before they “have to.” Finally, this person is sufficiently realistic to realize that as terrible as it is, this planning WILL come in handy, sooner or later.
These people compose the majority of my clients. They invest in their future, enjoy peace of mind knowing they are prepared, and save time, money, and nerves when bad things happen.
More People Wait For Things To Get Bad.
A lot of people do not start looking for an estate planning attorney until something bad actually happens. This “something bad” is usually completely foreseeable – for example, I’ve never heard of a family trying to plan after the breadwinner was taken hostage in Iraq. No, usually it’s people getting into car accidents, or losing capacity from things like cancer, heart disease, and stroke. And THEN they – or rather, their family members – try to take care of their estate planning.
Why They Procrastinate.
Ha. Why people procrastinate is a million dollar question. It seems that everyone has their reasons, and frequently they are pretty random, based on negative, personal, past experiences.
If I had to come up with the most common reasons, they are the same as our objections to everything else: time and money. However, behind those is not believing that you’ll need estate planning (because you’re not going to die or have a stroke), and superstition-driven fear: once I do this, it’ll be my time to go.
Consequences Of Waiting.
Well, the consequences of not planning when things are good, and waiting until something bad happens are numerous:
Extra stress: If you wait, you know you NEED the plan. It’s hard to deny reality. And yet, you have so much more to worry about, then when things are going well…
Extra Cost: Lawyers charge extra for hospital visits. And lawyer time is expensive – especially when it needs to be coordinated with visitation hours and spouse’s availability.
Less Lawyer Options: when things are good, you can take your time and interview multiple attorneys to see whose personality, approach, and fees are best suited to your situation. At a time of an emergency, you are looking for anyone who’s willing to come to the hospital and execute the appropriate documents, NOW.
Reduced Planning Options: an “as good as it gets” plan, that covers everything, takes time and effort and energy to implement. If the client is very sick and has limited time to live, frequently the “as good as it gets” plan is no longer an option, and the family is forced to go with a “better than nothing” option.
Issues of Client’s Mental Capacity: the client must have certain mental capacity to execute an estate plan (the exact capacity required depends on the situation. It will be determined by the attorney at the time of planning, and sometimes the attorney will even need to bring in doctors to help determine whether the client is sufficiently aware to execute documents). Regardless, any illness with mental state effects, as well as drugs that the client is taking, will complicate the planning process at best, and will make it impossible to plan, at worst.
The conclusion is obvious: planning when things are good will save you and your loved ones time, money, energy, and will give you a peace of mind instead of a ton of additional stress when times are tough.
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