"A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow," Gen. George Patton once said. Patton was talking about military plans, but the same can be said about your estate plan.
Perfection is not attainable. A good plan, put in place today, is better than a perfect plan (conceived) that is never completed.
Without a completed estate plan, you and your loved ones can experience headaches in the form of substantial legal fees, court costs, family disputes, loss of assets to taxes, loss of assets to pay for long term care costs.
This can be a heavy price to pay for inaction. For instance, in my almost 15 years of practice in this area of law in the Lowcountry, we had one case in which we needed to petition the court to be appointed as the guardian and conservator of his spouse.
Why? The client had failed to create basic estate-planning documents. He and his wife did not have a general power of attorney.
The result? It took over four months and cost more than $5,000 to do. Doctors had to be paid. Doctors had to testify in court. The wife, who was obviously disabled, had to be served with process.
Doctors had to go to her house so they could report to the court. It was quite involved. But the law is rigid in its requirements.
Oh, and when the gentleman was appointed so he could sell the wife's house in Ohio, he then had to account to the court on a continuing and ongoing basis for every penny he spent from it. These headaches and costs could all have been easily avoided. All they needed to avoid four months of delay and all the costs and headaches was a valid general power of attorney.
In another case, we had a client move upstate. Their attorney drew up their ownership on their deed as tenants in common. The result? When the husband passed, the wife had to go through probate and incur substantial legal fees.
It could have been easily avoided with some advance planning and vigilance. There is absolutely no doubt that a good plan would have helped avoid many headaches.
Gen. Patton was a military man of action, and he understood that doing something is often better than doing nothing. When it comes to estate and asset protection planning, truer words have never been spoken.
Recognize that a good plan with basic legal papers can go a very long way toward avoiding headaches that you want to avoid. Be vigilant and put together a good plan to protect you and your family.
It is easy to do if you plan ahead.
Mark F. Winn, J.D., Master of Laws (LL.M.) in estate planning, is a local asset protection, estate planning and elder law attorney. www.mwinnesq.com