Everyone knows that when it comes to planning, whether it is estate planning, retirement planning or any other type of planning… it is usually the strongest when it is begun the earliest. Early estate planning gives you the most time to decide what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it. But the reality is that most people don't start early. If you're one of the procrastinators, you should not give up. As long as you are in control of your mental faculties, there is likely still time to get a plan, even if you are in failing physical health. Don't let your past procrastination be a roadblock to getting a proper plan put into place now.
The ancient Greek storyteller Aesop is credited as the originator of hundreds of fables. One of these is the story of the ant and the grasshopper. In the story, the industrious and proactive ant spends the summer storing food for the winter ahead. The grasshopper, on the other hand, whiles away his summer making music, and doing nothing to plan for the winter ahead. When the cold weather of winter arrives, the ant is prepared. The grasshopper, however, is not and is left to face a harsher fate.
There are some of types of planning where a failure to start planning early is essential, as that period of procrastination is something you can never get back — much like the grasshopper in the fable. Fortunately, estate planning is not exactly like that. Do not misunderstand: The earlier you start to plan, the better off you will generally be. However, do not let the fact that you have managed to put off estate planning for a period of time discourage you and stop you from seeking out help to put a plan into place now. In many situations, even if you are in your final months, weeks or even days of life, you may be able to get a useful plan as long as you are still mentally competent.
Early planning is the best planning because it gives you the maximum amount of time to consider your goals, compare your options, communicate with your loved ones and contemplate what type of plan would work best for you. While that is undeniable, so is reality. A 2014 survey reported in Forbes magazine concluded that more than half of Americans between 55 and 64 had no estate plan.
So what should you do if you're a member of “the 51 percent?" While getting a plan early is best, even a plan started belatedly can be much better than no plan at all as long as it is done properly. A shortage of time should not, though, lead you to cut corners. A plan that is crafted and executed without the proper care, which may rely on hastily selected form documents pulled from public websites on the internet, runs a high risk of failing to do what you want. A poorly drafted plan can, in some situations, actually be even worse than no plan because it can thwart your goals, increase costs and possibly cause confusion leading to prolonged litigation.
Even if time is short, take time to ensure that your planning is proper and your plan documents well thought out. With the proper team of estate planning professionals beside you, you can still get a well thought out plan that relies upon an experienced attorney's knowledge of the law and careful understanding of your goals and preferences, and get that plan executed in an expedited fashion.
So, in short: don't wait! However, if you do procrastinate, don't give up — because estate planning is simply too important.