Plan Now – Amend Later. Estate Planning and Lost Opportunities


Volume 6 • Issue 3 • March 2016

The Counselor is a monthly newsletter of Hallock & Hallock dedicated to providing useful information on estate planning, business succession planning and charitable planning issues. In this month’s issue, we will look at the opportunities that can be lost when we delay estate planning. If you are interested in learning more about the ideas and processes discussed in this newsletter, please contact us for an initial consultation.

If you are like most people, you occasionally think about your estate planning and then resolve to “get it done this year.” Of course, this year turns into next year and pretty soon a decade or more has passed and it still isn’t done. Well, you say, that’s ok, I haven’t died yet! Unfortunately, when it comes to many things in life, people are waiting for the “perfect” time to undertake some task.

  • I have little kids right now, once they are in school I’ll have more time.

  • We are SO busy with school activities, we’ll get to it in the summer.

  • We have a family vacation and this camp and that camp, when the kids get back into school, then it will be the right time.

Sound familiar? Fill in the blank with whatever the reasons that are keeping you from whatever goal you may have.

The reality is that there is a price to be paid for procrastination. There is a price that is paid for waiting for the “perfect” solution to a difficult question. That price is lost opportunity. Estate planning is like a funnel. Wherever you are now, you generally have the greatest number of options. As you make choices, or refrain from making choices, the funnel begins to narrow. The thought that you can keep your options open by failing to make choices is a fallacy. The failure to make a choice is, in itself, a choice.

So what are some of the opportunities that can be lost in failing to plan? Each of us has a timeline on this earth. Your opportunity to plan is theoretically somewhere between now and the day you die. But, as people advance in age, some become incapacitated, incapable of managing their own affairs. Just as death cuts off your opportunity to plan, so too does incapacity. Two events, death and incapacity, will cut off your opportunity to plan all together. Yet, in neither instance can you know in advance the date and time when that opportunity will be cut off forever. You lose the opportunity to identify who inherits your assets and how. You lose the opportunity to identify who will be in charge of your affairs when you no longer can. You lose the opportunity to avoid the payment of unnecessary taxes. You lose the opportunity to identify who will take care of your children.

In addition to the opportunities that are cut off completely, delay can cause the loss of other opportunities. For example, the ability to purchase long term care insurance or life insurance can become much more expensive or non-existent as a person grows older or health declines.

Estate planning can be defined as follows:

  • I control my property while I am alive and well;

  • I take care of myself and my loved ones if I become disabled;

  • I give what I want to whom I want, when I want and the way I want; and

  • I do so with the lowest possible amount of professional fees and court costs.

If planning is deferred, planning is not done. The great thing about most estate planning documents is that you can re-visit them and make changes whenever you like. This means that you don’t have to have all of the perfect solutions the first time. The plan can be revised and amended as circumstances or goals change. So, don’t let indecision be your decision. Don’t waste the opportunities that exist today, but may not be available tomorrow.

This Newsletter is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between Hallock & Hallock and the reader.