Time is of the Essence with Estate Planning
“I don’t plan to die next week,” my clients often tell me. They convince themselves there is no urgency in completing or finalizing their estate plans.
The truth is with estate planning, time is of the essence even when we don’t think we’re going to die imminently.
I learned this lesson years ago when I worked with a middle-aged couple who thought they had all the time in the world. We had a phone conference on a Thursday, right before a weekend trip they were taking. Neither was ill. Neither planned to die.
I called the wife the following week because I needed some clarification of her intentions. She didn’t answer. Her husband did. That’s when he informed me she had passed away. They had gone back to the hotel after eating dinner and attending a show. Both went to bed. He was the only one who woke up.
Even if you work with a lawyer to prepare your documents, they won’t do you any good if you don’t execute them. I was reminded of that just last week. I worked with a client this month who had a terminal condition and no estate planning documents in place. Time was definitely of the essence. So I prepared documents and sent the documents to the client within a few days of our planning conference. My client died a week after I sent the documents without having signed them.
We all know we’re going to die someday. Not letting the fear of death consume us every day in our lives is a human superpower. That’s a good thing. But it can also cause us to procrastinate on really important tasks, like making sure our families are protected in the event of our incapacity or death.
So, if you haven’t yet created your estate planning documents, schedule a planning conference at your earliest convenience. If you have your documents in hand but haven’t yet executed them, commit to doing that right away. If you have your documents executed but haven’t taken the time to change beneficiary designations, record deeds, or retitle assets, set aside some time to get that done.
Then go back to exercising your superpower with the confidence that, come what may, you have done what you need to ensure your loved ones have the legal authority and guidance they need to make decisions on your behalf and manage your affairs in the event of the unexpected.