Importance of Timely Estate Planning

In 1790, John Trusler, included the following proverb in his compilation: “No time like the present, a thousand unforeseen circumstances may interrupt you at a future time” This is so true in estate planning. Now is time to plan.

I had an elderly client recently schedule, urgently, a consult. She was in a visible panic when I entered the conference room. In tears,  she described the deterioration of her husband’s mental condition. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a year prior. Now, she cannot leave him at home to run errands. She recounted a recent event when she left him in the car while she went into Walmart to quickly make a purchase. While she was inside, he got confused, left the car, and caused a scene in the parking lot due to utter distress. In almost complete shame, she “confessed” she had applied for a nursing home room for him. She needed a Power of Attorney she said.

Thankfully, this wasn’t the first time I had consulted with her. See: seven years earlier, while she and her husband were in perfect physical and mental health, they had come to get a Last Will and Testament. However, after a consultation, they learned that a Last Will is only one piece of a sound estate plan. In that consult, they learned about matters, they didn’t even know they needed.

One such piece of wisdom was the need for a Durable Power of Attorney. (Recall that a Power of Attorney is a document in which you name the person who can manage financial and healthcare matters on your behalf if you are unable to do so during your lifetime, say, because you’ve become incapacitated. Remember a Last Will can be only valid after you die.) Along with his Last Will, her husband had signed a Durable Power of Attorney. Therefore, she did not need a Guardianship or Conservatorship. now She had all the legal power she needed to take care of her husband already in place.

Secondly, due to the counsel from this office, she and her husband had deeded their house and farmland to their children; however, they reserved what is called a Life Estate in the property. Because this was done outside of five years, this property was outside the Medicaid look-back window and the value of this property is completely not counted against them. They should qualify for Medicaid without any penalty.

Of course, the relief was palpable in her body language. She left full of smiles. They were very wise to plan when they did: even if it was in their 70s. It is never too late.

On another note, we also assisted her with getting her husband approved with a separate VA benefit called Aid and Attendance which she did not know about.

I know that Legalzoom sounds great and it is sometimes cheaper. But if my clients in this case had merely used LegalZoom, nothing would have been in place to protect them today. They would merely have had a Last Will. Most times, our clients don’t know what they need. Attorneys may cost more but often the marginal cost of their experience and counsel is more than worth the expense.