When entities conduct research into the estate planning preparedness of American adults, the numbers are hard to understand. Caring.com has taken on the task over the last few years, and they have seen a steady decline in the number of respondents with estate plans in place.
In the 2020 survey, less than half of individuals that were 55 years of age and older had wills or trusts. The number was less than 30 percent for people between the ages of 34 and 55.
Estate planning procrastination can yield negative consequences, and we will provide an overview here.
Intestate Succession Laws
If you were to pass away without any estate planning documents, the condition of intestacy would exist. Under these circumstances, the court would provide supervision while the estate was administered by a court-appointed personal representative.
During probate, creditors have a chance to come forward seeking satisfaction. Once rightful debts have been paid, the court would order the distribution of the remaining assets under the intestate succession laws of the state.
We practice in Vermont and the laws are somewhat different in each respective state. Suffice to say that there’s a good chance that the way that the assets would be distributed would not be consistent with your true wishes.
People that you would never leave out intentionally could be disinherited. There is also the risk of distributions that you would not have approved of when you were alive.
All it takes is a phone call to our firm to set up an appointment to put a custom crafted estate plan in place. When you take the right action, you seize control of your legacy.
A lot of folks know that they should put an estate plan in place, but they procrastinate because they feel as though they will have plenty of time to do it later on. As we all know, people pass away at all ages every day, so this is one fact of life that makes this approach quite irresponsible.
Secondly, you have to consider the possibility of latter life incapacity. About a third of elders that are 85 years of age and older have Alzheimer’s disease, and there are other underlying causes of incapacitation.
It is not entirely uncommon for seniors to create estate plans when they are suffering from cognitive impairment. A will or trust that has been executed by someone that is not capable of making sound choices would not be valid.
People that are in this condition are sometimes pressured or tricked by others with personal agendas. You should certainly make sure that you put an estate plan in place while you are still in a position to do so.
On the subject of incapacity, your estate plan should include the selection of agents to act on your behalf to prevent a guardianship proceeding. If you have a living trust, you could name a disability trustee. For other property, you can execute a durable power of attorney for property.
Advance health care directives should be included as well. One of them is a living will. With this type of will, you state your preferences with regard to the utilization of life-sustaining measures.
You should also include a durable power of attorney for health care or health care proxy. This device is used to name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf that are not specifically tied to the use of life-support.
In order for the agent to have the information that is necessary to make sound choices, you should add a HIPAA release. Without it, medical professionals would not be allowed to discuss details with anyone other than the patient.
Schedule a Remote Consultation!
If you are ready to put the procrastination behind you once and for all, we are here to help. Because of the fact that distancing is the safe way to go, we are offering consultations on a remote basis, so you don’t have to take any risks.
You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and our phone number in Vermont is 802-879-7133.