The Elderlaw Firm - Dennis Toman - Headshot Dennis Toman

Dennis Toman founded The Elderlaw Firm with a mission of helping families better prepare for elder care and other legal issues for the second half of life. Contact him at 336-396-8988.

Want to know what’s useless? An estate plan that doesn’t work.

When do most people find out their estate plan is useless? Trick question! The answer usually is, “never.”

That’s because useless estate plans become a problem after it’s too late. The person who left the mess dies or loses capacity, and they never know the anguish and problems they caused. But their family has to pick up the pieces. How sad for them when it happens.

Imagine how much better off everyone would be if the estate plan made things easier instead of harder. When you think about it, investing in the right estate plan is an act of love.

What most people want. Most people want their family to inherit their estate. They don’t want to lose chunks of money to the courts, the government, the nursing home, or if a child divorces, and so on. That requires advance planning…and adjusting to changing circumstances.

Will vs Trust. The old saying is, “Where there is a Will there is Probate.” That means when a parent dies and the family brings their parent’s Will to me, I’m going to have to tell them that the house and bank accounts in their parent’s sole name will require a court process called Probate. They are shocked to hear about the extra expense, and paper work required. They also learn that about how the courts invade their privacy, because all of their parent’s assets, and debts will be part of the public record, available for anyone to see.

A Living Trust would have avoided those problems. Mom or Dad could have worked with an estate planning attorney to create a Living Trust and placed the home and savings into it. Then the child appointed as Trustee could have sat down with everyone at the kitchen table and explained how the entire estate could be settled without involving the courts. Everyone would appreciate that Mom or Dad took the time to do things right and got the right advice, so that the estate would be settled quickly, remain private, and avoid the expenses and headaches of Probate.

A Living Trust can avoid Probate, but it can’t protect assets. If your goal is to preserve assets from the nursing home or future creditors, that can be done with other types of trusts.

Act now. Anyone with a useless estate plan, or no estate plan at all, is like a trapeze artist walking along a tight rope, swaying in the breeze high in the air, AND WITHOUT A SAFTEY NET. Think how quickly life can change, whether a fall, or car accident, or stroke, or sudden illness, or whatever. We need to be prepared, but so many people aren’t.

Do right by your loved ones. Protect your family and your money, with an estate plan that won’t be useless.