Sunday, February 28, 2010


The problem for most Americans when it comes to doing an estate plan is the "P" word. The "P" word does not stand for "Probate"; but,for "Procrastination". Most people think that Estate Planning is always something that one will get around to tomorrow. It is never urgent....until something happens.

According to a recent survey by, the number of Americans with some type of estate planning document has dropped from 64% in 2007 to 51% in 2009. I have heard of other surveys that suggest that fewer than 30% of Americans have properly drafted and funded estate plans in place. I suspect that in these rough economic times, people are simply testing fate to put off the expense of creating their estate plan. What people do not understand is that a good estate plan helps one avoid probate and saves significant wealth for the benefit of one's family. A good estate should have the ability to benefit the beneficiaries many times over the cost of the initial plan. For example, while the cost of a will is rather inexpensive up front, the cost of administering a will through the Probate process [all wills go through probate] can be as much as 6-8% of the value of the entire estate. While one is alive, a will is meaningless. A will only speaks at the date of death. If one becomes incapacitated and a guardian or conservator has to be appointed while one is still living, the annual cost of such probate administration can be literally thousands of dollars. A simple living trust can avoid both the cost of disability probate and death probate.

We often get calls like "Mom is in the intensive care unit having just suffered a stroke. Can you do her estate plan now?" The answer is: NO. The time to do one's planning is long before the crisis of disability or death. If you are loved one has not effectuated an estate plan, do something about it today. Do not procrastinate! It is not a question of "if" you will need this. The only question is "when" you will need it.

1 comment:

  1. The only thing that I would say is that its not technically impossible to do estate planning at that point, at least not in California, provided that a conservatorship of the estate petition be filed. Of course it will then be subject to notice requirements and court approval.

    But generally yes at the point where someone is incapacitated its too late. Also there is a "who is the client" ethical issue, at least in California, when you get this type of call from a prospective beneficiary rather than the principal. I had a conservatorship case where we had to invalidate estate plan modifications because the gentleman's attorney prepared documents at the behest of the gentleman's girlfriend.