The Estate Planning Clock (is Ticking)
“A Stitch in Time Saves Nine”
“Kate,” an affable Aussie know-it-all at Yahoo! Answers says this saying is of French origin, namely a nautical concept concerning sufficient stitching of shrouds for burial at sea, with sacks weighed down by 9 pounds of shot. Whatever. Outside of Oz, the adage is commonly credited to Benjamin Franklin, one of two dead non-Presidents on U.S. paper currency.  Franklin was what you’d call a polymath: inventor, author, theorist, printer, politician, postmaster, scientist, statesman, civic activist, diplomat, humorist and… incorrigible cad. 
Though the adage is three-centuries’ old, it has yet to take: at least one thing Homo sapiens never escape is a proclivity to procrastinate. Franklin’s (forget the French) aphorism connects to the common avoidance of estate planning– the execution of a Will, Living Trust, Advance Health Care Directive and Durable General Power of Attorney. While we always aspire to obtain bills that bear his visage, we can’t touch Franklin’s productivity. And when it comes to the inescapable concepts of taxes and death, putting it off is especially easy to do. But taxes and death differ: (personal) income-tax filing may be deferred from April to October; yet, when it’s due, there’s no extension for death, which is why it merits planning. Now that we’re sufficiently shamed by the prolific Franklin, we will woman- or man-up, we will deal, we won’t dawdle, we will address death by timely attending to our estate. It’s a selfless act to ensure families aren’t compelled to guess at our wishes for management of health- and financial-affairs. It’s a selfless plan to preserve our property so that heirs aren’t shortchanged.
Why Fearing the Reaper Isn’t… Cheaper
We are- and remain reticent about estate planning (or any proactive plan pertaining to incapacity and end-of-life). Yet, ironically (in the actual sense of ironically) the average person (being the non-estate-planner) is not shy of the Great Unknown; she seeks it out! Or at least that would appear to be the case judging by common attraction to the macabre: we test our fears by watching and reading horror; we revel in gory accoutrement on Halloween. Yet, constructive treatment of death through simple estate planning is avoided.
Arguably a gory Halloween costume and tickets to see Saw XVI are cheaper than creating a trust. But not by much: estate planning is obscenely economical. Not as obscene as some costumes on Halloween or seeing Saw XVI (if Saw XV is any indication), but still.
1) Protecting Property; and 2) Achieving Certainty plus Peace of Mind. Let’s succinctly sum these up starting with protection of property:
Absent a living trust, once we shuffle off the mortal coil, our home and real estate pass through probate, a public superior-court proceeding, which stalls (typically for one-year-plus) distribution of our assets; probate is triggered if the aggregate gross value of assets exceeds $150,000 (virtually always the case if one’s a homeowner). Through court-appointment of an executor (and their attorney), exorbitant fees are deducted from the gross value of one’s property. In dollars and sense it means this: if your home is valued at say, $500,000, then (regardless of existing liens), probate can exact $26,000 from its value. Why would one needlessly bid two hundred and sixty Benjamins adieu? And it’s not our money that’s lost: aye, there’s the rub! Our children, heirs and beneficiaries shall simply receive less. ‘Nuff said. Now on to that most elusive state: peace of mind,
While we’ve dwelled herein on death, the living trust or living estate package is an, ahem, living instrument. It provides for delegation of health care decision-making if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate your preferences. The estate plan instates a power of attorney to ensure vital financial affairs for your family may be seamlessly handled by a preferred agent. If you’re debilitated, your family must contend with grief and worry; they don’t deserve an added burden of guessing at your desires. Who will decide issues of prolonging life? Who will manage your property? Left open to linger, these questions can compound families’ pain. In that sleep of death, what dreams may come if loved ones are deprived and directionless?
All these directive are distilled into a tidy bundle of papers, which take their place in your file cabinet next to the grade-school art projects, birthday cards and Anniversary car– oops! that reminds me…
(And don’t worry: you’ll get the digital copy as well. Even for this paper-chasing profession, paper… is passé.)
Wills and Trusts Attorney, Asaph Abrams: offering free, no-obligation consultations in San Diego.
He wasn’t much to look at, but French women (as in French women in France, where he “diplomated”) went wild o’er old Ben. In fact, coinage of the expression ooh la la is attributed to the time of Franklin’s tenure in Paris). My high-school English teacher (who like Ben, was full-bodied, bald, ribald and brainy) explained that the ladies were simply smitten by Ben’s beautiful mind. Those were the days.
So if you ever feel your time management’s inadequate, rest assured: you can feel worse by acknowledging that Ben had no-more hours in his day than you have in yours. Then again, he didn’t have Facebook.