Unfortunately, as we get older, our faculties often wane. Perhaps we’re not as sharp as we once were, and maybe our memories are fading. Generally, our mental capacity diminishes so that it no longer resembles that of the thirty or forty-year-old version of ourselves. It’s a part of life, just as death is a fact of life. Thus, it is incredibly important to plan for that day while we still have the sharpness and the insight to do so.
Stories of elderly people being taken advantage of, manipulated in terms of their wills and estates, and fraudulently divested of their hard-earned money are sadly common. Estate planning helps to safeguard your assets, not to mention those important memories and artifacts that compose a posterity plan, for generations to come. Doing it now, doing it while you can still “see” into the future and remember the past, is absolutely essential.
Benefits of Planning Your Estate Early On
Of course, no one likes to think about the day they are going to die, much less plan for it. However, that is the biggest mistake you can make. More powerful than the discomfort that comes with discussing death is the peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved ones are protected, that your estate will be put to good use, and that your legacy and inheritance are once and for all safe.
With Age Comes Wisdom—and Confusion. “It’s just the changes in the body. And the memory. I don’t remember where the keys are. Or, as my son says, ‘Ma, it’s not that you don’t remember where you put the keys; it’s when you pick up your keys and you don’t know what they’re for.’” – Toni Morrison.
I am sure you realize by now that I have a story here. A ninety-year old client of mine decided it was time to create her estate plan. Now again, I am all in favor of anyone who wants to craft a detailed and well-thought-out estate plan. However, I certainly can’t stress enough that this task is often most effectively accomplished at a younger age.
As we were working through her estate, the woman was determined to leave the majority of her assets to her youngest son, thereby creating a very unequal distribution of property among her heirs. Having honored her wishes, I began drafting the plan. However, she returned a couple of weeks later stating that she’d made a mistake. Her youngest son, after all, was not very helpful. In fact, it was her oldest who was most often there for her. At this point, I asked if we could possibly invite one of her children to come into an estate planning meeting with her. I sensed not only her confusion, but also her frustration at not totally being able to grasp what was before her and consequently see the bigger picture.
Fortunately, she was highly amenable to this solution, and her daughter – not a part of the confusion at hand – was able to attend our next appointment. After talking it through with her daughter and gaining a clearer and more logical picture of her circumstances, the woman ultimately made the decision to divide her estate equally among all four of her children. In this circumstance, with the daughter’s assistance, there was a viable solution. However, such is not always the case.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Plan Your Estate
Unfortunately, sometimes older people go into estate planning not completely certain of the facts, or worse, under the influence of those around them who are greedy and seeking only their future gain. Another reason I encourage earlier planning is because if a client truly has a good reason to create an estate plan that has unusual or untraditional bequests, it will be more susceptible to will contests.
Oftentimes, our firm has clients that plan to leave the majority of their assets to the caretaker children. Since the child that takes care of the parent usually also has the most influence over the parent, other children may view these bequests as unduly influenced, and may seek to challenge such distributions. How can you avoid or minimize these issues? The answer: estate plan at a much younger age, at least far younger than ninety.
Remember, you want to map out where your family and the circumstances surrounding your estate will be when the end does come. At a certain point in time, it becomes hard to effectively project in this manner. Not to mention, we become more susceptible to those ingratiating few who really aren’t there because they particularly care about us. I have sadly seen wills changed within three months of a person’s demise because of such manipulation. I encourage lawyers to gently question their clients to make sure that their clients completely understand the long-lasting effects of their estate plans.
Call Our McKinney Estate Planning Attorneys Today at (214) 499-9647
At Willingham, Galvan & Auten, we guide clients through the legal process surrounding estate plans and wills. If you want to prepare for the future and continue your legacy for generations to come, our compassionate lawyers are here to help. We have a thorough knowledge of estate planning laws and can answer your questions every step of the way.
Contact us today to learn more about our services. We offer free initial consultations to all prospective clients.