My primary task as an Estate Planning attorney is providing guidance for the possibly difficult times ahead: creating the vehicle you will use to communicate your wishes about health care, a funeral, your finances, as well what to do with the family home.
What if you knew that there was no tomorrow? How difficult is it to plan ahead when your death is imminent and you know that the future will not include you?
In my experience, the answer to this question is illuminating: the older my clients get, the more involved they become in the process of estate planning. On the other hand, the younger the client or the more unexpected their terminal illness is, the harder it is for them to contemplate the road ahead. The solution is that there is no time like the present to address the hard questions involved in planning your estate. Don't wait until it too late to provide the answers.
This week, I was faced with the unfortunate task of reviewing a Will that had been drafting virtually days before a young man’s death, using a form off the internet. I was shocked by a document which literally strung together unrelated words and phrases thereby failing to accomplish some of the testator’s intentions. To add insult to injury, the internet provider had failed to mention that the document needed to be properly witnessed and notarized. This Will likely wouldn’t be admitted to probate. The Executor explained that the time between diagnosis and death simply did not give this man the time he needed to accept his future. For him, estate planning at this critical time meant that he was giving up on his fight to live.
Despite our natural reluctance to talk about these matters, now is simply the best time to actually lay out your plans and discuss them with your family. Open communication and your personal guidance can often avoid future family squabbles.
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Reference: The Wall Street Journal (August 11, 2012) “Speak for Yourself, While You Can”