Any of you who’ve ever heard Mike or me speak on estate planning know that the main barrier to most people getting their planning done is procrastination. In fact, it could be that you’re reading this site right now thinking, “Wow! I can’t believe I still haven’t even started my planning. Let’s see … the kids have soccer tomorrow, the in-laws are coming in next week, and then I’ll be out at that conference in San Diego. Well, I’ll definitely take a look at this when I get back…”
You are not alone. The majority of Americans have no estate plan at all. No will, no trust, nothing. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,” is the constant refrain.
I recently heard, from an estate planning colleague, the following story of a family that failed to plan and the burden it wound up putting on the children in the family. Please read this story, take the opportunity to learn from these mistakes, and start your family’s planning today:
“Recently, a 21-year-old college student we’ll call John came in to my office. John had received a call from his father last summer. John was in class so he didn’t answer. After class John’s sister called and asked, “what is wrong with Dad”?
“Immediately, John called for Dad and found out that he, age 44, was at the hospital in ICU. Dad had a stroke while mowing the lawn. Dad was now in a coma. He didn’t have an estate plan allowing John to help make any decisions or get any medical information. He would need to go to court to get a guardianship over Dad.”
“So I asked, “Where is Mom”? John said Mom had a stroke 4 years ago at age 38 and has been in a coma ever since, living in a nursing home. He’d have to go to court to get a guardianship over her, as well.”
“Soon, I got a call from John’s only living sibling. She lives in another state and is 24 years old with 4 kids. She asks about her deceased sister’s children (3 of them) who had been living with Dad. John failed to mention the children who now have no one with legal authority to care for them or to make decisions for them. One of the children has special needs and is wheelchair bound. He’ll need to go to court for 3 more guardianships!”
“So now, 21 year old John is looking at 5 guardianships – with no job and no real parenting/caretaking skills. No friends that qualify as guardians have stepped up. No one. This is the worst situation I’ve ever had walk into my office. Now the 21 year old has 5 guardianships under his belt and a forever altered future.”
One of the least expensive forms of education we have is learning from other people’s mistakes. Don’t let this lesson pass. It’s never too early to start planning. No one thinks anything will happen to them, especially if they’re only 38 or 44 – but it does happen. Do something today.