There seems to be a growing trend with the potential clients I have been meeting with lately. And, unfortunately, it is not a good trend. I have been meeting frequently with the various family members of individuals that are currently incapacitated at some level– in many cases with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The disease itself is bad enough, but that is not what the appointment is about. The appointment centers around the steps necessary to help their family member. Because the family member is incapacitated they can no longer help themselves and need someone else to assist them. There are plenty of things that we can do to help people in this situation.
The first question I ask is, “What estate planning has already been done?” And the typical response is, “None.” In some cases, there is a power of attorney or a last will, but the ones I have been seeing lately look to have been downloaded from the web, and the blanks are filled in. This is almost as good as having nothing in place! The decisions made as to what to fill (or not) and what elements are included or missing from the document play a critical role in being able to provide assistance when the time comes.
So the conversation that typically follows starts with, “If he had only come see me last year…” “If only” is the phrase I hate uttering most. It means that I don’t have as many options to be able to help the family through this already tough time. “If only” means that the person took a gamble, thinking the “bad thing” would not happen, or more likely, “will happen later, and I will see that attorney before it does.”
Now, as I sit in front of the family, I have to let them know, in most cases the options are limited. In all likelihood, we will have to head to court, and the court will grant the power to oversee their loved one. This option is frustrating even to me, so I can only imagine the impact on the family. Court is time consuming, a public record, and worse of all, extremely expensive!
Please don’t be one of my “If only” families. Plan ahead. Talk with an estate planning attorney so that your plan includes contingencies for whatever life may throw at you.
We would be happy to sit down with you and discuss your situation. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 888.222.1328.
Contributed by MH New Mexico Estate Planning Attorney James P. Plitz
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