Archive for April, 2011
WHEN IS THE “RIGHT TIME” TO BEGIN ESTATE PLANNING?
Recently, I was asked by a young, healthy, successful, single female professional when she should start thinking about estate planning. Although I wanted to scream “yesterday!”, I did not. Instead, I hemmed and hawed so that it would not appear that I was trying to “sell” my services or to be unnecessarily alarmist. Then I attended a presentation concerning estate and financial planning issues for people with chronic illness, which reinforced my backbone so that I may answer this type of question more forthrightly in the future.
Estate planning is not only about protecting others by planning how you leave your assets after death. In fact, you should start by protecting yourself and planning for the possibility that you may become disabled. There are 120 million Americans today living with chronic illness or disability. They are not all elderly. Sixty percent (60%) of those living with chronic illness are between the ages of 18 and 64. The time to protect yourself is now.
Another young, 30-something female professional friend of mine recently was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Statistics show that eighty percent (80%) of those diagnosed with MS are women (seventy percent (70%) of those are single), and the diagnosis most often is made when the female is in her 30’s. If you wait to begin estate planning until after you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, it may be too late. Although you can have legal documents prepared after such a diagnosis of a physical illness, the opportunity to purchase long-term care insurance, disability insurance or even a life insurance policy to provide the protection and financial means to pay for the estate plan, may be gone. If you become mentally disabled, it will be too late to do any planning at all.
So, the true answer is that it is never too soon to start your estate planning. We are here to help.
GETTING MARRIED? PLAN TOGETHER – Why Use an Estate Planning Attorney to Prepare a Prenuptial Agreement
People contemplating marriage often consider the advisability of a prenuptial agreement, particularly in a second marriage. What difference does it make if you go to a divorce attorney to prepare the prenup or seek the advice of an estate planning lawyer? Plenty! Let me share a recent story with you that comes from my work as a Jacksonville, Florida estate planning lawyer.
A client came to me after being told by her fiance’ that she would have to sign a prenuptial agreement prepared by “his” attorney. This was less than two (2) weeks prior to the scheduled wedding ceremony. She was assured by her fiance’ that she was being asked to sign a “standard” prenup. However, its terms sought to have the soon-to-be wife waive every legal right she conceivably could have acquired as a result of the marriage and also stated that the parties’ assets and funds would at all times be kept separate during the marriage. As you might suspect, my client was quite upset and felt blind-sided by this request. She pushed back by refusing to sign the agreement and presented a counterproposal for, perhaps, more than she otherwise would be legally entitled. This upset the prospective husband. Rocky negotiations ensued and the wedding was postponed.
What is the moral of this story? Tone and context is as important as content. By going to a divorce attorney to prepare the prenup, it was presented in a threatening manner. The prospective husband presented it to the prospective wife as a precondition to the marriage from “my attorney”. This caused bitter feelings and led to angry negotiations. Contrast this scene to the couple instead sitting down with an estate planning attorney to discuss how “we” want “our” financial arrangements during the marriage (and beyond) to unfold. The estate planning lawyer will counsel and provide options to this couple for what “we” want to accomplish; protection of children from a prior marriage, their family issues, asset protection, etc. and the role that a prenuptial agreement will play in their overall estate plan. The parties thus are able to begin their marriage discussing difficult financial and legal issues together in a supportive environment, instead of apart in an adversarial one.
The choice of an attorney, including the type of attorney, to prepare a prenuptial agreement is an important one. If you or one of your friends are contemplating taking this step, please carefully consider the different outcomes that may result from this decision. Plan together, for the journey of marriage…
TO DELAY IS HUMAN, TO GET ON WITH IT DIVINE
Why do people wait so long to consult a lawyer about estate planning? Most people are aware that this is something that needs to be done. Most people can find the time to do it. The culprit is procrastination. There is a natural tendency to postpone difficult tasks that don’t have to be done right away. To sit down with an attorney to discuss preparing a Will, forces you to think about the world when you are not in it. Doing so can lead to protection for your family. Finding a way to tackle procrastination can lead to a positive outcome in other areas of life as well.
What if you are beyond the point of procrastination and you are now into the realm of superstition. You believe it would be “tempting fate” to make a Will. Why court the evil eye? With your luck, you will make a Will and then get run over on your way to Kinko’s to make copies for your family. You haven’t even bought cemetery plots yet, what’s the rush? Well, what if superstition works the opposite – like carrying an umbrella and then it doesn’t rain? No, superstition is not a good reason to put off estate planning.
I hear you…I hear you. Nevertheless, most people who finally make their way into our office to do their estate planning find a comforting peace of mind after the planning is completed. What are you really waiting for?