Why Estate Planning Procrastination Kills Your Options
Last Updated: February 18, 2019
Are you procrastinating your estate or legal planning? A Place for Mom’s legal expert, elder law attorney Stuart Furman, explains how estate planning procrastination can impact your financial and medical options in later life and why planning now is so important.
Learn more about estate planning procrastination and read five reasons why you should start your estate planning early.
Estate Planning Procrastination
Most people wait until something bad happens before they take action or make decisions. Unfortunately, with eldercare, this can severely limit your options.
In my “ElderCare Ready Book,” there is a chapter titled “Famous Last Words.” These are things that I have heard from clients that create circumstances that will destroy any hope of using helpful planning techniques to assist them.
From my experience, here are the top reasons why clients commonly procrastinate:
- They don’t want to deal with their mental incapacity or mortality so they say they “will take care of it later.”
- They don’t want to pay attorney’s fees to draft their estate plan, not understanding these documents are arguably the most important papers in a person’s life and will almost always save money in the long run.
- They don’t want to decide how to divide their estate.
- They don’t want to expose their life to another person, such as their child and feel as though this gives up their autonomy.
- They fear that if authority is given to a child, they will “put them in a home,” which is a historical fear from a time when a myriad of residential options was not available.
5 Reasons to Start Estate Planning Early
Why should you start your estate planning early?
1. Changing conditions to meet care needs is easier.
Without a clear-minded parent, residential living choices cannot be communicated to the children. Understandably, parents don’t want to give up their freedom and so they are very hesitant to address their residential options if they need to move from their family home. It is highly recommended to determine all of their senior living options (from home care to skilled nursing centers) while the parents can still provide input. A Place for Mom can provide valuable information on these options, which can be tailored specifically to the parent’s health and wishes.
2. Clear end-of-life wishes.
An incompetent parent cannot clearly communicate his or her end-of-life decisions, health care decisions and more. The children are then left to just speculate, with each child often having his or her own opinion. Especially declaring one’s end-of-life desires well ahead of time will minimize or even eliminate the guilt a child will feel in carrying out the final act and help to avoid conflict.
3. Greater access to financing long-term care.
Financial planning options for long-term care may no longer be available due to the health of the parent. For example, long-term care insurance may not be available if the parent’s mental or physical health has declined. Additionally, the parent may have lost his or her ability to communicate their investment comfort levels. Once families decide to address planning before a care crisis occurs, the initial discomfort of addressing these issues is greatly outweighed by the lasting positive effects of having good preparations in place.
4. Harmony amongst family members.
Without clarity, knowledge and detailed planning early on in the eldercare journey, the stress levels can go through the roof, a lot of money may be needlessly spent and relationships between family members can become strained as each has their own idea of how and where, the care should be provided.
5. The ability to sign documents.
A parent cannot validly execute any documents if they are no longer mentally competent to do so. This inability to sign documents can cause a whole buffet of problems for the family. For example, court action may be needed to gain access to a parent’s finances and health records, which then subjects the caretaker or guardian to annual reviews and accounting to the Court. These proceedings, typically called an “adult guardianship”, are expensive, stressful and time-consuming, as well as publicly invasive to an elder’s privacy. Having appropriate estate planning documents in place, before a problem arises, can provide the children access to information when it is needed most.
After watching thousands of families struggle through this process, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of planning ahead.
About the Author
Stuart Furman, Esq., is an elder law attorney of 34 years. He is President of the Southern California Legal Center, Inc. and ElderCare Ready, LLC, and author of “The ElderCare Ready Book” and “The ElderCare Ready Pack.” He has been featured on AARP, Forbes, Maria Shriver and many other sites. His books are available online with most online retailers. For further information and a link to purchase the books, please visit: www.eldercareready.com.
Do you or a senior loved one have an estate plan prepared? What suggestions do you have for others that are just beginning this process? Share your tips with us in the comments below.
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