As an estate planning law firm, we advise and counsel clients, and establish and implement a plans in order to protect individuals, families, and businesses in the event of illness, incapacity, disruption from the unexpected, and death. Who needs this advice, planning and protection? Simply put-everyone! Illness, incapacity, disruption from the unexpected, and death are inevitable. We all face these realities, so why not be prepared?
The fact is that many people have all kinds of excuses for not having their basic estate plan in place. These are the avoiders, the procrastinators, the do-it-laterers, the around-to-iters, and the out-of-sight, out-of-minderers! Let's face it, we all have a tendency to avoid things we don't want to think about...things that make us uneasy or uncomfortable. Sometimes it's putting off that routine dental cleaning-until the tooth starts hurting. Or it may be not doing that routine car maintenance-until you can't get to work because your car won't start. Or it might be putting off getting a flu shot-then regretting it after you get the flu. These are all good examples of putting things off and yet they do not rise to the level of seriousness caused by not having a good estate plan in place.
Recently, I had two clients in similar situations but with very different outcomes because one was prepared and one was not. Both situations involved married couples where one spouse became suddenly incapacitated. One couple had established their estate plan through our firm about five years ago. When one of the spouses had a stroke, it left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak for himself. Because that client had established a Durable Power of Attorney and a Power of Attorney for Healthcare, the healthy spouse was able to speak for and take action to care for their incapacitated spouse. The other couple had never established an estate plan-they meant to but they avoided doing it...they procrastinated...they said they'd do-it-later, they'd get around-to-it...for them it was always out-of-sight, out-of mind. So when one spouse became gravely ill, the healthy spouse was faced with difficulties being able to speak for and act on behalf of her spouse. Ultimately, a guardianship had to be filed for the incapacitated spouse. This meant unnecessary time and expense, as well as embarrassment to the spouse being declared legally "incapacitated" by the guardianship court.
Remember the old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." With estate planning, this is really good advice since tomorrow's unexpected might prevent you from being able to do what you intend!