Part of my practice is attending care homes, hospitals, client’s homes and hospices to prepare for end of life matters—frequently far too close to the client’s end of life.
We all know that life is busy, and for most people, estate planning is what I like to call a back burner topic. Everyone knows it is extremely important, but it is something that is not usually viewed as urgent until it actually boils over and becomes urgent.
The problem is, sometimes when the urgency occurs, it is too late to plan for it—the accident has already happened, the diagnosis has already been given, the coma is already upon us.
I recently had an 85-year-old couple in my office, with several children and many many grandchildren. They had never done any estate planning—ever. They had no wills, no powers of attorney and no health care planning in place. Although we chuckled about it at the time, I stressed to them how very very fortunate they were. Things could have been drastically different for them and their family.
Delaying your estate planning is also dangerous from a validity perspective. If you delay your planning until you have entered a care home, or suffered a stroke for example, whatever decisions you make in regards to your planning may be open to later scrutiny by disgruntled heirs. If they can prove that your mental powers were deteriorating at the time you executed your estate planning documents, or that you may not have had capacity when you executed your will, they may use this as grounds to contest your estate.
As someone very dear to me once said “I don’t need a power of attorney! I haven’t lost my marbles yet!” Of course, once you lose your marbles, you cannot execute any estate planning documentation, so it all has to be planned, prepared and executed while you have all your marbles. Thus, the moral of the story is, get all your estate planning in place while you have every single one of your marbles firmly in place, because as soon as you lose one, or maybe two, you are leaving a big mess for your family members to deal with after you are gone (both mentally or physically gone).