Recently I met with a heartbroken couple facing an aggressive, terminal diagnosis for one of them. There is likely little time left. From that meeting I headed to a health care facility to review estate documents with a man hopefully recovering from a very serious health condition. He was lucid but so weak he could barely sign the documents I prepared.
The good news is that, in both instances, we are able to put their estate plan into place. This is definitely not always the case. Recently, I sat with a woman I had met months earlier, but who decided to wait before completing her estate plan. The next time I saw her was at her bedside trying to determine her wishes. She was so weak that she could not answer my questions. As she made subtle sounds or movements, family members tried to interpret; but it was not enough to be sure those interpretations were her wishes. She died within hours . . . and without a will.
However, for those folks in my first example, estate planning after the crisis created significant burdens. Instead of focusing on loved ones and those that matter most, they must make sure their estate planning is done. For them, estate planning is not a source of comfort; it has become a desperate burden.
In the other example, my weakened client found himself caught between two well-meaning loved ones. Trying to help, they were gently pressuring him to make choices they thought best for him . . . or maybe for themselves. I had to take additional steps to ensure his weakened condition had not left him susceptible to coercion, even if that was not the conscious intent of his loved ones.
When a health crisis strikes, extra time may be a blessing for many reasons. This is not necessarily true for estate planning. At that vulnerable time, the challenges to effective planning will likely be significantly greater. Don’t miss the opportunity now to plan when you can.
© 2016 Steven J Wright