By Attorney Patrick G. Curley
Q.) My spouse’s health has not been good. Our neighbor keeps telling us to get our estate plan done but with all the medical appointments, can’t estate planning wait?
A.) Waiting can be a costly mistake. Tackling estate planning today can help protect both of you and your assets for the future.
Timing is everything when it comes to estate planning. As we age, the dangers of procrastinating with estate planning increase exponentially.
We all procrastinate. Life is busy. Trust me, I know how busy it can be because I have a one and three year old! There are never enough hours in the day.
But I also know the value of peace of mind. By signing estate plans, my wife and I can rest easier knowing that if something happened to us, the Trustee our Living Trust will manage our matters (rather than the Probate Court interfering in our business), the Guardian we named in our Wills will raise our minor children (rather than the Court making that choice), and our Trustee will manage any inheritance for the benefit of our children until they reach age 25 (rather than the age 18 default under MA law).
Too many people rely on the false assumption that they will get around to doing their estate plan just before they die. Without a crystal ball, a significant number of seniors pass on or become incapacitated before they actually sign an estate plan. People sometimes say: “what does it matter, I’ll be dead.” But the reality is procrastination can be enormously costly and burdensome to you and your family.
We see firsthand the burden that procrastination puts on families. Families left paying tens of thousands of dollars in estate taxes that could have been avoided entirely had the decedent signed a carefully drafted Will or Trust. Families forced to pursue costly Conservatorship actions in the Probate Court because a loved one failed to sign a well-drafted Durable Power of Attorney before losing capacity. Families in which the entire inheritance is lost to nursing home costs for the surviving spouse because the decedent failed to ensure that the estate would be protected against the nursing home and Medicaid.
We also see firsthand the peace of mind that seniors can enjoy knowing that their estate plan is in place. They and their children no longer have to worry about the “what if” questions. Indeed, timely estate planning can be a tremendous gift to the adult children because they are not left picking up the pieces in a crisis.
This spring, we encourage you to add one more thing to your spring cleaning task list: Estate Planning. Do it for yourself and for the people you will leave behind. We guarantee you will sleep better once your estate plan is in place.
(Patrick G. Curley is one of two dozen Certified Elder Law Attorneys in MA and has been selected for inclusion to MA Super Lawyers since 2011. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the MA Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Patrick practices law at Curley Law Firm LLP at 1 Common Street in Wakefield. Do you have an Elder Law or Estate Planning question? E-mail questions to Info@CurleyLawFirm.com or call 781.245.2222 x10 to be considered for future columns.)