People often think of estate planning as having documents, but this assumption misses a key point. It doesn’t matter if you have estate planning documents. It matters if they work the way you need them to when you need them to.

An adult daughter called us desperate for help last week. Her parents were selling their house and were in escrow with a buyer.  Her father was incapacitated, and though he had signed a financial power of attorney a year prior that named her as her father’s agent, the title company would not accept the financial power of attorney.  A title expert confirmed that no title company would accept that particular financial power of attorney.

Unfortunately, this left her, her siblings and her mother little recourse. They can’t sell the house while dad is alive unless they obtain a conservatorship for dad, which can easily cost upwards of $5,000—money they don’t have.  The sale is gone.

Please don’t assume you only need a set of estate planning forms to avoid problems later. It’s important to make sure your estate plan will work as needed when you need it to do so. Unfortunately, you aren’t likely to identify a problem until it’s too late. If you know someone operating under this assumption, please encourage them to meet with a qualified estate planning professional to avoid a big problem later.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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