My colleague in Hingham, Massachusetts, Leanna Hamill, of the Massachusetts Estate Planning and Elder Law Blog, has written a wonderful article today emphasizing reasons given by people for procrastinating estate planning and how it's not just planning for death, but for planning for the eventuality that you might experience an incapacitating injury, or what we often call "living probate," where you are unable to make your own financial or medical decisions. If you have not done your planning, or if it has been a while since you have, I hope this article will help motivate you to take action to make life easier on you and your loved ones if something tragic like that happens.
I Can't Lead a Horse To Water, or Make It Drink
By: Leanna Hamill
Many times my biggest competition is not other attorneys – it's
inertia. It isn't that people are meeting with other attorneys and
getting their estate plans in order, it's that they just aren't doing
The biggest excuses I hear are usually "I don't have any
thing to leave to people and my family knows how to divide my stuff" or
"I won't care what happens to my stuff, I won't be around then
anyway." These excuses focus solely on the "death" part of planning.
But what about all the things that happen to people while they are
Like Christian and Stephanie Nielson,
parents of 4 young children, who were in a plane crash and survived.
They were in the hospital for months while their families took care of
their children, their house, their lives. I have no idea whether they
had any legal planning in place, but it would have been one less thing
for their family to worry about. (Set aside some time to read
Stephanie's blog, and have some tissues handy.)
Or the young
person who was in a car accident (or the older person who had a fall)
and spent a couple of months in the hospital and then rehab. When
family members need to pay bills or deal with an apartment or home or
get information about schooling – having a power of attorney in place
allows this to start happening right away rather than spending the time
and money to get the Court's permission to do these things. Or worse –
just letting those things slide. Recovering is hard enough without
having to deal with late bills, credit card interest rates that
sky-rocketed due to the late payments, bills being reported to
collection agencies because they weren't being paid, or telephones and
other utilities being shut off. You get the picture.
making sure that the person of your choosing is the one making health
care decisions for you when you are unable. Planning not only legalizes
that authority, it is usually what prompts people to have the
discussion about medical care in critical circumstances and end of life
I can't drag people in off the street to my office to
get these things I place. And I don't usually spend a lot of time
trying to convince people that they need them, because people know they
need them. What I can do is make it easy for you to come in and talk
about it, I can let you know up front what the fees are so you can fit
it into your budget, and I can help you with any decisions you are
But, like with most things in life, the first step is up to you.