The High Cost of Procrastinating (I of III)

Posted By Jay Kaufman || 22-Mar-2011

For Community, Clients, Advisors

In the last year or two, our firm has represented three families who have come to us under circumstances where it was too late for us to help them plan. I’d like to tell you a little bit about each of their experiences, in hopes their lessons can save you some unnecessary troubles. Here’s the first example. More will follow in each of my next two blog posts.

Dorothy L. was referred to us from another law firm, months before her untimely death. She had two daughters. One, Evelyn, is single and unable to work due to chronic disease, and is receiving social security disability benefits. Dorothy wanted her other daughter, Judy, to be in charge of things. It was critical to Dorothy to ensure that Evelyn’s social security benefits not be at risk if she received an inheritance.

Dorothy intended to call me for an appointment, but never did. How do I know this? I’m told that at the time of her death, the daughters found a copy of the old will next to her bed. On it was a PostIt note containing my name and phone number.

If Dorothy had picked up the phone to call me, we could have created a special trust to ensure that Evelyn’s benefits were never disturbed. After her death, it was very complicated to accomplish this objective. We had to take many extra steps, taking a lot of time and money to fulfill Dorothy’s wishes and protect Evelyn’s benefits. The significant additional cost and delay were not the major concern, however.

Evelyn and Judy spent months literally in limbo, wondering and worrying if Evelyn would be able to receive her inheritance. Their nights of worry were needless. Had Dorothy just picked up the phone, her children would have had less cost and delay in settling her estate, and far less worry and stress after the fact.

Consider: It’s not the dollars and cents that are of the highest concern. At what is often a difficult time already, it’s the high stress and worry on the family that is most easily avoided. Here is the biggest issue: Without taking some kind of action: most people don’t consider that their important objectives simply might not be accomplished.

Do you know someone who has talked about a will or a trust or an estate plan for a long time but just hasn’t “gotten around to it?”

The High Cost of Procrastination: Part II of III, in the next “episode” of my blog.

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