Do you buckle your seat belt when you get in your vehicle? It's simple, doesn't take much time, and you know you'll be protected in the event of an accident.
Do you figure that since things are fine now, you'll wait to buckle your seat belt until you feel the car start spinning out of control? Unless you have the reflexes of Superman or Bill Fishkin, you probably won't have enough time.
Or do you just never buckle your seat belt and figure that your family and professionals can handle things in the event of an accident, because you are just too busy to do it now.
What does this have to do with estate planning? Well, other than the fact that you hopefully have your plan in place in the event of an accident; it seems that may people fall into one of these categories when it comes to planning for the future.
There are those who want to be prepared, and who get their plan done in a few visits. They don't have to worry about what will happen to them or their loved ones in the event of a crisis. They have had time to carefully think through their decisions, and make sure everything is just how they want it. They are calm when they discuss Estate Planning, and relieved when the plan is finalized. They have their seat-belts securely fastened and can enjoy the ride.
Then there are those who put off planning until it is almost too late. They are leaving the country in this weekend and only have time to do the bare minimum and not the comprehensive and complete plan they wanted to do. Or their mental capacity is slipping and the time they have to plan, before someone else needs to handle their affairs, is very limited. What they have is better than nothing, but it will leave some complications for their loved ones to deal with in the event of their death or incapacity (ie they do not have a trust or powers of attorney). The expenses are higher; the risk of running out of time is greater. They are stressed out when they come to plan, but mostly relieved when they are done.
Then there are those who make no plan. These are the saddest cases. There has been a crisis in the family and instead of being able to concentrate on their parents or other loved ones, the children are visiting the attorney to try to sort out the legal mess. They are trying to figure out what their parents have so that they can pay for their care, or apply for Medicaid or MediCal for them. Maybe they are having to go to Court to get a conservatorship over their parents so that they can sell the house or handle the finances. Maybe there are siblings who don't get along and can't agree over who should do what, and its back to Court to let the judge decide. Things that could have been decided when the parents were competent, are now being fought over. Adult children who have their own lives and families to think about are having to jump through many hoops to accomplish what would have been completed with a simple task had their parents or relative taken the time to plan for their estate and for themselves.
We buy car insurance, but no or health life insurance. We tuck our kids in at night and lock the doors, but they do not plan for their demise. These clients are sad, stressed, worried, angry and scared when the come to see me. As we work through the issues burden starts to lift, but the feeling of relief comes at a higher price and possibly with less satisfaction and relief as if there had been a plan put in place when there was time. All I can say is make the time.