Seven Bad Reasons to Put Off Estate Planning | Valerie J. Newman
by Valerie J. Newman
Senior Attorney at Elder Law of Omaha
1. My family and I don’t own much. Can’t we put off planning until we can afford it?
You shouldn’t. This is your life’s work; even if it’s not a huge number, it should still be you who gets to decide what happens to it. If you have minor children, are providing for a special needs person, or have a blended family, it is even more important to make sure your intent is carried out. Additionally, the initial cost to you is much less than it will likely be later. There is no guarantee that your family will be able to carry out your intent without proper estate planning. We never want any of our clients to have to pay for costs that are unnecessary or avoidable.
2. My son just graduated from high school. He owns nothing but an autographed baseball and a 1997 Chevy pickup. I don’t have to worry about an estate plan for him.
You should. Estate planning isn’t just about owning property. Life needs protecting, too. If your adult child is hurt in an accident and cannot make their own medical decisions, you, as a parent, will not make the medical decision; the treating physician will be in charge unless you have a power of attorney. Similarly, you will not be able to handle any insurance or financial issues while your child is recovering unless you are the power of attorney.
Just imagine the stress of it. You’d be there to help, but nobody would be legally required to listen to you. You would have to go to court and get a guardianship – over your own child – in order to step-up and assist.
Instead, just think how much easier (and less expensive) it would be to get your adult child to create powers of attorney. Those are documents that convey legal authority onto you (or onto someone of your adult child’s choice) to act on your child’s behalf if he or she becomes unable to do so.
3. Our kids are grown and married. Can’t my spouse and I postpone planning?
You shouldn’t. First, you can never tell when disaster might strike. The job of being a parent is truly never over. You need to make sure that your affairs are in order so that if there is an emergency, you have a plan for what your children need to do. Second, your kids may seem happily married now, but that may change. You want to make sure you plan for what you want to happen to your life’s work no matter what happens to your child’s marriage.
4. Our kids are able-bodied, thank goodness. Why should we worry about protecting disability benefits for them if they don’t need them?
They might not need those benefits now, but if they become disabled in the future, and if they inherit money from you, inherited money could cost them thousands of dollars a year in benefits. We will help you take simple steps to protect that money if your children do become disabled.
5. My doctors know best. I’m not going to tell them how to do their jobs, and I don’t want anyone else doing that either. What’s wrong with that?
Doctors are amazing. Trusting your doctor is important; however, doctors are taught to treat. If you are at the point in your life where you do not want invasive procedures, do not let your doctor decide. Do you want to be kept alive on machines, possibly for years, when you can no longer care for yourself, recognize loved ones, or even swallow? These days, medical machines can breathe for you through a tube in your throat, keep your heart beating, and deliver food and fluids through a tube in your stomach. Many who are on these machines die in the hospital, their arms tied down to prevent dislodging the tubes. Health-care providers are ethically obligated to keep you alive to the bitter end. Few of us want that. You can decline those extreme measures with our carefully crafted legal documents.
6. Can’t I just grab a will off the internet, do a transfer-on-death deed for my land, put my kids on my bank account, and call it done?
Sometimes, this can work out; however, oftentimes it’s just creating more problems than it solves. Just look at some of the complications: an estate plan should protect disabled children’s inheritances from loss of valuable government benefits; it should avoid probate court; it should protect money from creditors or divorce or remarriage; it should avoid disputes between children as joint owners.
Even a relatively simple situation contains many moving parts. It takes expertise to coordinate the various strategies. Don’t risk a result you wouldn’t want. Call us to create a plan that harmonizes the moving parts, so the gears will work together, and you will leave the legacy you intended.
7. Can’t I just forget the whole thing and let my kids deal with it after I’m gone?
You can, but then you do not get to determine what happens to your life’s work. Also, your kids will not thank you for leaving a mess for them to cleanup.
Here’s one good idea:
Come see us now. The documents we create for you might be “just pieces of paper,” but they are worth a great deal more. At a stressful time when additional hurdles are the last thing you need, powers of attorney and other estate-planning options could save you and your family delay, expense, and heartache.
To discuss your estate planning and long-term care Medicaid planning options, call (402) 614-6400 today to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Visit our website at www.ElderLawOmaha.com.