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What happens when a loved one does not have a financial power of attorney, a healthcare directive, or a will/trust? Some parents or loved ones refuse to sign “one of those” legal documents because their mama and daddy did fine without them or they’re certain you will take all their money and put them in a home. If this situation sounds familiar to you, maybe this One-Page Takeaway (OPT) will help you and your parent or loved one ensure that their interests and assets are protected.

Sara And Esther’s Story

Sara was 93 when she passed away. She had lived on her own in Florida in a home she owned. Her daughter, Esther, loved her mom and worried about her mom. Every year, Esther had hounded Sara about signing a power of attorney or a will. She had refused. Esther remembers her mom saying things like: “I don’t need any of that.”; “All you want to do is take my money and put me in a home.”; “My Mama and Daddy did fine without all that fancy legal stuff.”

Her mom passed away on a sunny afternoon in August. After Sara’s death, Esther had the responsibility of handling her estate. One of her tasks was going to include managing her mom’s condo which was right on the beach in Florida. Esther found an attorney in Florida, paid him $2,500 to start working on the case. First, she had to wait two weeks to get the death certificates. The attorney had to have them to begin. Then after the initial filing there was publication that had to run in the newspaper. During all this, mom’s hurricane insurance expired. Esther tried to renew it but was told by the insurance company that she could not sign without being approved by the probate court first. It would take several more weeks to get approved.

So there she was in August at the beginning of hurricane season with a condo sitting on the coast uninsured. She had seen neighbors his two years ago and the extent of the damage done to their condos which, thankfully, was covered by insurance in their case. Still, they had to go through quite a few steps to process their claim. What if a hurricane hit her mom’s condo while it was uninsured? Couldn’t the attorney do anything more or faster? No, unfortunately, there is a process that must be followed. It takes time and there’s no short cut or fast lane for processing. Frustrated, Esther could do nothing but wait for the court’s process to be completed. It was the worst time in her life with the frustration and anxiety that comes when your hands are tied compounded by her grief and loss. In fact, the only positive thing to come out of it was that Esther decided she could act for herself. She asked her Georgia attorney to create her own estate plan so that her family would be protected from the nightmare she was going through with her mom’s estate. Days passed, weeks passed. Every news story about hurricanes made Esther jump. Thankfully, the condo made it through hurricane season unscathed that year. Esther is certain she has aged and has more creases around her eyes because of the ordeal. Since that experience Esther has told multiple people about her experience and the importance of planning ahead. She has been responsible for at least 4 of her friends finally getting around to creating their own estate plans and her boss even asked a local attorney to come in and do a series of talks during lunch for employees. Esther feels happy and fulfilled when she can help others avoid the expense and stress of not planning. It’s her silver lining on her own personal storm. She would tell you, if you can, avoid having to go through the storm at all. Plan. And plan early.

What are one-page Takeaways (opt)?

Wilson Legal offers simple explanations for common questions in One-Page Takeaways (OPT). We believe that informed clients make the best decisions. Our one-page takeaway explanations are intended to help you better understand some of the common questions and to alert you to areas that may need more attention. This OPT is not intended to be used as legal advice or used in lieu of advice from a qualified attorney. Was this OPT helpful? If so, please consider working with Wilson Legal for your planning document updates or to begin creating your very first estate plan.