Estate Planning Procrastination
In my elder law practice, far and above all other concerns is client
procrastination. Most people wait until something bad happens
before they take action or make decisions. Unfortunately, with
eldercare, this can severely limit your options.
These are things I have heard from clients that make me cringe, as I
know how these circumstances can destroy any hope of using helpful
planning techniques to assist them and their families.
Reasons People Procrastinate
Here are five reasons why clients commonly procrastinate:
1. They don’t want to deal with their mortality or mental incapacity so they say they “will take care of it later.”
2. They don’t want to pay attorney’s fees to draft their estate plan, notwithstanding these documents are arguably the most important papers in a person’s life, and will almost always save money in the long run.
3. They don’t want to decide how to divide their estate.
4. They don’t want to expose their life to another person, such as their child, and feel as though this gives up their autonomy.
5. They fear that if authority is given to a child, they will put them in a nursing home, which is an historical fear from a time when a myriad of residential options were not available.
Reasons to Start Estate Planning Early
Why should you start estate planning early? Consider:
1. 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 accountings to the Court. These proceedings, typically called a “conservatorship” or adult “guardianship”, are expensive,
time consuming, stressful, and publicly invasive to the 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.
2. Clear End-of-Life Wishes: An incompetent parent cannot clearly communicate his or her end-of-life decisions, health
care decisions, bequests, 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. Changing Living 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. I toured seven different large
assisted living communities with my parents over a year before they needed to consider moving. They were quite surprised at
the livability of the communities, which eliminated the stigma of being put into a stereotype of a nursing home. They were
much more receptive to discussions on a variety of topics after that. It is highly recommended to determine all of the residential
living options (from home care to skilled nursing centers) while the parents can still provide input. A senior placement agency
can provide valuable information on these options, which can be tailored specifically to the parent’s health and wishes.
4. Maintain Family Harmony: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. 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.
After watching thousands of families struggle through this process, I wrote a book and accompanying guide that takes out all
the guesswork for families starting their eldercare journey by showing them how to pack all the necessary information into one
place. Whether you go it alone or use a resource like my books, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of planning ahead.
Give us a call today at 229-292-8989 to find out more information about our innovative approach to Elder law, Asset
Protection, Estate, Medicaid and Life Care Planning. We have free information brochures, and offer free seminars on this
subject. Lambert Elder Care Law is located at 108 E. North Street, Valdosta, Georgia. Visit our website
Reference: A Place for Mom, Stuart Furman, Esquire (July 2015)