Last week, on my twitter account, I posted an article about the importance of estate planning and the challenges that can result from estate planning procrastination. Procrastination is almost an universal human phenomenon. While most of us know that we should “never put off until tomorrow what we can do today”, that statement is easier said than done. But in the context of estates law, the deleterious effects can be exacerbated, especially when people wait until something bad happens before they try to make estate planning decisions.
First, if the person is no longer mentally capable, they will not be able to sign important documents. Court proceedings may be necessary in order to get access to a loved one’s finances or health records. This process can be time-consuming, stressful and expensive.
Second, an incapable person will not be able to communicate their wishes with regard to treatment options. After going through the stress of obtaining the legal authority to make personal care decisions, loved ones must then bear the burden of making those decisions. And if they are difficult ones, this can lead to feelings of guilt as loved ones question whether they made the right choice.
Finally, stress, high costs and guilt are a perfect formula for interpersonal conflict. Without a clear and detailed plan, the biggest cost to the family may be the relational costs incurred as tensions mount amongst family members.
Having discussions that relate to a loved one’s end of life may be difficult, but procrastination can result in even greater difficulties. Discussing one’s wishes and executing a clear and detailed estate plan is essential. It is important to speak to an estates professional before something bad happens. This can save time, stress, guilt, unneeded expense and ultimately, prevent family conflict.
Have a great day.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, which means I am about to become the lucky recipient (insert sarcasm here), once again, of ‘subway flowers’. Call me a cynic, but I don’t consider subway flowers to be the hallmark (oooh – good pun) of advanced planning. See, my husband procrastinates. He’s the one frantically scanning the menu when everyone else has already given their order and he’s the guy online on the 24th of December trying to figure out who can guarantee next day delivery. I have to be honest, as someone hardwired for strategic planning, his approach truly unravels my DNA. To me, the 11th hour is the time to bask in the glow of a job completed well ahead of schedule. To him, the 11th hour is the time to put fuel in the tank for the inevitable burst of activity towards the impending finish line. The end results are the same; I just happen to really resent his methods.
He got quite smug with me last week when I came across some information that suggested he had procrastination competition in Leonardo da Vinci, of all people. According to the book “How to Procrastinate” (part of the Self-Hurt series), da Vinci’s prolific output was ‘matched only by his volume of random doodles and meandering sketches’. Apparently, The Last Supper was only finished after his patron threatened to cut off all funds. And Mona Lisa took twenty years to complete. Distractibility appeared to have been the cause of da Vinci’s procrastination. He dillied and dallied about in various fields of study, including math, anatomy, architecture and engineering. Some (the procrastinators in the audience, perhaps) may view this as multitasking; reportedly da Vinci could even paint with one hand and write with the other simultaneously. Others may perceive his widely varied interests as simply a lack of focus.
I chuckled in December when I read an item on CNNhealth.com about StickK.com, a website that offers the ‘Commitment Contract’, a binding promise by a user to stick to a personal goal or face a self-determined financial penalty. According to Yale University economics professor Dean Karlan, “It’s a contract to make slothfulness more expensive.”
Maybe I should just sign my husband up for art lessons instead…
Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger
Listen to Dealing with Estate Planning
This week on Hull on Estate and Succession Planning, Ian and Suzana discuss dealing with estate planning and encouraging everyone to draw up a will.