Offered by Michael A. Dolan
People love to procrastinate, especially when they’re dealing with topics that make them uncomfortable. As a result, estate planning can be a task that people tend to put off. Often they wait until someone tells them they have a terminal illness, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease or they retire. Unfortunately, procrastinating can raise significant questions as to your intent regarding your instructions after death. It adds uncertainty when you have not made amendments to your estate plan for a period of many years, and then make significant changes just prior to your death.
Death bed changes to estate plans are often contested in court. Undue influence by family members over aging parents, diminished mental capacity, and the influence of medications on an individual’s capacity all raise questions about whether the last-minute change or preparation of an estate plan really represents their intent.
This can be avoided by putting an estate plan in place early, and reviewing it regularly to make sure that it continues to meet your intent. It makes the plan more enforceable, and provides you with peace of mind. It can also help remind you of your true and well thought out intent when you are struggling late in life and are encouraged by others to make changes. If you want to make a change to your estate plan when you are late in life or facing a terminal illness, take special care to document your true intent and your mental ability to express that intent. Additional steps and formality can save problems, disputes, and litigation after your death.
Avoid these problems by planning early, review and update your plan often, and if you decide to make changes late in life, properly document your intent and your ability to make the decisions. Your family is less likely to fight over your wishes and they will continue to have family gatherings and meaningful relationships after your death.
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