People who put off estate planning because they believe that they don’t have a large enough estate to worry about it may be missing an important point. That is, that estate planning isn’t always just for the people who are left behind when someone passes away. More and more, the law firm of Lopez & Wilmert, LLP is being engaged to handle situations when people are still alive, but have lost the capacity to handle their own affairs. This loss of capacity can be permanent, but it is also very possible that it will only be temporary. For example, an illness or accident might temporarily deprive someone of the ability to make financial decisions, but that ability comes back months or weeks later. In the meantime, someone still has to pay the bills, arrange for care, and deal with all of the other realities of daily financial managemnet.
That is why proper estate planning is so important. If even a temporary loss of capacity occurs, a friend, relative, or a professional will have to step in to take over the financial power and responsibility until recovery occurs. Having an estate plan in place can mean the difference between a simple, seamless transition, or a long and expensive court-ordered conservatorship proceeding. It is not difficult for a conservatorship action to cost five or ten thousand dollars, even if it is uncontested. That is because there are so many participants in the process, all of whom end up being paid by the person who has lost capacity, as well as a number of court and investigation fees that a charged by law. All of that can be avoided if a proper estate plan is established ahead of time.
The last thing people want to discover when they have been out of commission with a serious illness for several months, is that they have lost a huge chunk of their assets to a conservatorship that would have been avoidable with a little bit of proper planning.