Six Bad Reasons to Put Off Estate Planning
1. My family and I don’t own much. Can’t we put off planning until we can afford it?
You shouldn’t. It is crucial to give legal authority to a person of your choice who can care for your children if anything should happen to you. You don’t want your children to become wards of the court, or to be delivered to a family member you don’t like. Second, the cost to you at the front end (now) is much less than it could be later, when you might face steep legal fees to get the job done. I don’t want my clients to have to pay for costs that are completely unnecessary or avoidable.
2. My son just graduated from high school. He owns nothing but an autographed baseball and a 1997 Chevy pickup. Surely, I don’t have to worry about an estate plan for him?
You should. Estate planning isn’t just about owning property. Life needs protecting, too. If your child should lose consciousness in an accident, and he or she is over the age of 18, you as a parent will no longer have the legal authority to decide what medical treatment he should receive. Insurance companies might refuse to deal with you. Just imagine the stress of it. You’d be there to help, but nobody would be legally required to listen to you. You would have to go to court and get a guardianship – over your own child.
Instead, just think how much easier (and less expensive) it would be to get your adult child to get the right documents in place, while all is OK now (e.g., make out powers of attorney). Those are documents that convey legal authority to you, or to people of your adult child’s choice to act on your child’s behalf if he or she becomes unable.
3. Our kids are able-bodied, thank goodness. Why should we worry about protecting disability benefits for them if they don’t need them?
They might not need those benefits now. But if they become disabled in the future, and if they inherit money from you, inherited money could cost them thousands of dollars a year in benefits. We will help you to take simple steps to protect that money if your children do become disabled.
4. My doctors know best. I’m not going to tell them how to do their jobs, and I don’t want anyone else doing that either. What’s wrong with that?
Do you want to be kept alive on machines, possibly for years, when you no longer can care for yourself, recognize loved ones, converse, or even swallow? These days, medical machines can breathe for you through a tube in your throat, keep your heart beating, and deliver food and fluids through a tube in your stomach. Many who are on these machines die in the hospital, their arms tied down to prevent dislodging the tubes. Health care providers are ethically obligated to keep you alive to the bitter end. Few of us want that. You can decline those extreme measures with carefully crafted legal documents .
5. Can’t I just grab a will off the internet, do a transfer-on-death deed for my home, put my kids on my bank account, and call it done?
Just look at some of the complications, in some of the above answers. An estate plan should protect disabled children’s inheritances from loss of valuable government benefits. It should avoid probate court. It should protect money from creditors or divorce or remarriage. It should avoid disputes between children as joint owners. And it should avoid unnecessary extra costs and fees. While it may sound easy and low-cost, most internet plans I review have a multitude of problems.
Even a relatively simple situation contains many moving parts. It takes expertise to coordinate the various strategies. Don’t risk a result you wouldn’t want. A qualified attorney can help you create a plan that harmonizes the moving parts, so the gears will work together and you will leave the legacy you intended.
6. Can’t I just forget the whole thing and let my kids deal with it after I’m gone?
Sure you can. But your kids will not thank you for leaving a disorganized mess behind, and you probably don’t want them to be dealing with all of that on top of the grieving process they will feel when you die. Put yourself in their shoes! Would you want that result when your own parents die?
Here’s one good idea:
Make an appointment with me to do your estate planning! The documents we create for you might be “just pieces of paper,” but they are worth a great deal more than that. At a stressful time when additional hurdles are the last thing you need, powers of attorney and other estate-planning options could save you and your family delay, expense, and heartache.