Recently, I had a series of cases in which families waited too long to prepare estate planning documents. Both cases were surprises to the families involved.
One case involved a father who as a result of a stroke had severe mental impairment. The father was not able to function. The father was retired, but still in his 60’s. Prior to the stroke, the father had been able to live independently with his wife. Based on the representation of their daughter, a school teacher, her father was active and sharp. No one expected him to become incapacated.
The father’s family will need to now petition a court for guardianship to be able to manage his care and his funds. This means that this close family will now have to explain what they do to a judge who will be well intentioned in helping the family, but will nonetheless require certain legal guidelines be followed. The outcome will be spending thousands of dollars and a loss of flexibility that the family would have enjoyed had advanced planning been done.
The other case was a sudden and unanticipated death of a mother. Once again, the death was not expected. There was no Last Will and no trust. This left the adult children scrambling to get a resolution and costing more money and heartache than a simple Last Will could have provided.
The bottom line is there is never going to be a good time to get an estate plan completed. That is why so many families wait and get caught in situations where it is too late. At best, the families simply go through additional expenses. At worst, the wrong beneficiaries get the inheritance and families are fractured.
If you're an adult child or a trusted advisor, make sure those around you are protected. Share this information with them, so that they are able to both protect themselves in the event of disability and so that their legacy and loved ones are protected when they inevitably reach their final day.