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A Couple Learns About Estate Planning From Attorney John McNair

With Estate Planning, You May Delay, But Time Will Not

Recently I attended a conference about End of Life options and Estate Planning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas sponsored by Conversation Ready NTX.  Throughout the day, the speakers repeated the theme of overcoming procrastination.  As Benjamin Franklin wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac, “You may delay, but Time will not.”.

The elephant in the room.

Most people delay talking about later-life issues, including Estate Planning.  They don’t say whether they would prefer family members to provide personal care assistance or professionals to provide the care.  Many are reluctant to name the person they would want to make medical decisions if they were no longer able to do so.  Often these decisions require careful and thoughtful consideration. They can be uncomfortable to talk about.

The consequences of delaying these decisions can be severe.  If you put off investing with the advice of a Certified Financial Advisor, your options in retirement may be very limited.  Without telling your family that you want to be buried in your hometown, you may end up cremated in a vase on the mantle.  If you don’t put your assets into trust, you may end up spending all your savings on healthcare, leaving your spouse destitute.

As Duke Ellington famously said, “I don’t need more time, I need a deadline!”.  Sometimes we delay acting because we don’t know when we should be doing so.

Here are five timely timelines to help you avoid procrastinating your Estate Planning.

  1.  FINANCIAL PLANNING –  Meet with a financial advisor as soon as you get your first real job.  Follow-up with them and adjust your plan any time there is a marriage, divorce, birth, death, or major life event.
  2. ADVANCE DIRECTIVES –  Anyone over the age of 18 should appoint an Agent to act on their behalf if they become incapacitated.  In your 20’s this person may be a parent.  In your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s it may be a spouse, sibling, or friend.  After age 60, you may want to consider appointing an adult child to serve as your Agent.  Ensure that your Financial Power of Attorney is Durable and includes language that allows significant gifting powers.  Appoint alternate agents, and update the list as needed.
  3. LAST WILL & TESTAMENT –  Complete a will no later than the birth of your first child.  Update the provisions of your will and other estate planning as the family changes through birth, divorce, marriage, death, or disability.
  4. TRUSTS –  Create a trust any time you have significant assets you can’t afford to lose.  Assets not placed in Trust can be vulnerable to theft, creditors, divorce settlements, lawsuits, and more.  A trust-based estate plan is more private than a will-based estate plan, and minimizes the costs incurred after a death.
  5. THE CONVERSATION –  The conversation about End of Life care should be held frequently throughout your life.  Often your thoughts and feelings will change over time.  The Conversation Project has useful Starter Kits that can be downloaded or printed out to begin the conversation.

Follow the advice of Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”  Take action.  Meet with your financial advisor, set an appointment for a free consultation with an Elder Law Attorney to complete your estate planning, or download The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit today.


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