Estate Planning Attorney – Why do people wait so long?

As an attorney who practices elder law and estate planning, I frequently see people who have waited so long to act that they have lost opportunities to get things done right. Many times the ability to preserve the full amount of assets has been lost, sometimes assets have been lost due to elder financial abuse and scams, and sometimes laws have changed which block opportunities that existed earlier. In the worst cases, the elder is unable to sign any documents at all due to a major stroke or dementia.

What prompts people to suddenly act in a rush? Sometimes it’s the death of someone near to them. I once had a client who desperately needed to get his affairs in order within three days. Why? He was leaving on a trip. I still didn’t understand. Well, his father had died. Was that the motivation? The client admitted that his father had died ten years ago and he had really been trying to come in and get everything done ever since then, but the years rolled by and then suddenly his younger brother died the week before he came to see me. That scared him into action.

Getting the proper documents in place is part one. Part two is making sure that the documents are up to date for what you need. Are your documents up to date? Does your living trust consider the new tax laws?

The durable power of attorney is generally considered to be one of the most powerful documents in your estate planning package, but I frequently see powers of attorney written years ago that specifically prohibit us from doing what we need to do now to protect the elder and their assets. Needs change with time, and many documents that work for younger people aren’t what should be used for seniors.

Take care of yourself and your family. Make sure you have the right legal documents in place.

Don’t delay!