When someone considers the possibility of planning for their estate’s future, they often decide they need to pinpoint the best time to create an estate plan. When these same people ask an experienced estate planning lawyer to identify the best time to create an estate plan, they probably get a myriad of answers ranging from when you get married to when you get divorced to when you have kids, etc. Yet none of these actually answer the question.
When is the best time to create an estate plan? The only correct answer to the question is simple, but annoyingly vague: When you don’t need one.
The other answers that are commonly thrown around in answer to this question aren’t actually the best time to create an estate plan, they are just common triggers for creating or updating an estate plan. An estate plan is different from the normal “purchase” made by a typical consumer. Most things we do or buy are in response to something that we need or want. When our car breaks, we need a new one, so we start looking for a new car. When we’re exhausted and tired of our job we want a vacation, so we book a flight and make hotel reservations.
The need for estate planning is different. No one wants to think about future situations that might lead them to need an estate plan: dying, disability, etc. They’d much rather shop for a new car or take a vacation. In fact, many people never even consider the need for an estate plan until they’re diagnosed with an illness or reach an age when that’s all their friends are talking about. Yet advanced age and times of illness are not the best time to begin estate planning – in fact – they may be the worst. An estate plan is best created as an advance plan for future implementation for a few reasons:
- When someone suffers an accident or an unexpected illness, they should be able to take that time to focus on their health without worrying about putting their estate in order.
- Estate planning while handling an emergency situation or trauma does not produce the best results. In some cases, it produces disastrous results.
Waiting too long to put your estate plan in place can lead to a number of different problems: no estate plan when you need it, court-ordered guardianship, ineffective tax planning, difficulty or inability to clearly communicate wishes, inability to fund a trust, inability to implement the estate plan, uncertainty regarding an estate plan due to the haste in creating it, confusion amid family and friends, disagreement and/or contention among family and friends, disputes over the estate, challenges to estate plans created late in life or near death, and more.
If you need assistance creating an estate plan now before you need it or updating an estate plan you already have in place, please get in touch with one of the experienced California estate planning attorneys at The Law Office of Janet L. Brewer.