Have
you ever put yourself in a very difficult situation, one that was entirely
avoidable, and then regretted it?  Those
who neglect getting their affairs in order place both themselves and their
loved ones in unnecessary jeopardy.   They
risk putting themselves and their family either through the stress and
uncertainty of death-bed estate planning, or worse yet, if nothing gets done, making
their family suffer the consequences.    

            What
are the risks?  They vary, but usually include
one or more of the following issues:  (1)
You die “Intestate” (i.e., without a will); (2) Your estate is probated; (3) Your
assets are distributed incorrectly (i.e., either to the wrong person(s) or in
the wrong way); (4) Your estate goes to persons who should not inherit anything
– such as persons who receive needs-based government benefits, who have debt
problems, or who have other obstacles; and (4) Your estate is administered by
the wrong person who does not do right by your family. 

            Death-bed
estate planning is best avoided.  Everything
must be completed in a rush under great stress and uncertainty.  Let’s consider some real life scenarios.  Imagine a lady who is about to have surgery, but
puts off finalizing estate planning documents because she understands that the
surgery is a minor operation with little risk.
Unexpectedly, complications arose due to infections, and the lady
becomes comatose, does not recover, and dies.
Unfortunately the lady’s surviving husband, who was already in fragile
health, takes a turn for the worse and he becomes unable to get the couple’s
affairs in order due to his own diminished mental capacity.  The couple’s surviving children battle one
another over control of their parents’ estate.
A court supervised conservatorship becomes necessary to control the situation.

            Now
imagine someone with end-stage cancer about to undergo chemotherapy who delays
finalizing her estate planning.  During
chemotherapy her health deteriorates dramatically, she loses consciousness, and
is expected to live only a few more days.
Fortunately, her son has a well drafted power of attorney giving him
complete estate planning and gifting authority to get her affairs in order
before she died.  He has her attorney
draft all necessary gifting documents to transfer assets to the children
without probate.  The mother is kept
alive another 24 hours to ensure that the work is completed before she dies.

            Next,
picture a gentleman dying of cancer in his bed without his affairs in
order.  He asks a close friend to find an
attorney.  When they meet he initially finds
it uncomfortable to trust the attorney who asks him many questions.  He decides many issues all in one setting so
that legal documents can be prepared the next day.  Then with much effort and concentration he
signs them on the third day.  A few days
later he dies.

            Nonetheless
people still choose to delay.  Common reasons
include:  (1) Fear of Dying – Some people
avoid estate planning because it makes them consider their mortality; (2) Procrastination
– Some people believe, “I always have tomorrow, why act now”; (3) Laziness – Some
people are not willing to gather the necessary information and documents;  (4) Not necessary – Some people think, “I won’t
be around after I die, others can sort out my mess”;  (5) Indecision – Some people just cannot
decide who gets what; (5) Costs – Some say, “I don’t want to spend the money
because I have other more immediate wants and needs”.

            As
the expression goes, “people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan”.  Neglecting one’s estate planning is failing
to plan for the protection of oneself and one’s family.  It is best done during times of ease rather
than at the last moment in times of stress.
One’s last days should not be preoccupied with estate planning.