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Fundamental estate planning refrain: do it before it's required

That above headline admonition is far from rocket science regarding just about anything important, right? You study before a test. You train before a physical competition. You try to save a bit of money beforehand rather than just sliding into debt to procure some new asset.

Estate planning is unquestionably a realm that rewards proactivity and timeliness. Arriving unprepared at some juncture where an important decision regarding finances or health must be quickly made is a recipe for discomfort and, sometimes, sheer disaster.

Take the aforementioned finances, for example. That is a topic that is centrally close to estate planning for many California residents, and one that a recent media piece underscores can be fraught with peril if not considered and reflectively acted upon by an affected party.

A case cited by the author of that piece presents a simple fact pattern, to wit: An elderly man is in a nursing home with dementia, and his son cannot access the father's bank account for care-related funds. Although the son is the payable-on-death bank beneficiary, that is irrelevant to the question of current access to account money. To withdraw funds, the son needs to be authorized to do so pursuant to a durable power of attorney executed by his father.

Fortunately, the son eventually discovered that his father had timely seen to the task. In many instances, though, such is not the case, with the downside possibilities being both stark and readily apparent.

The designation of select individuals to act for loved ones in key matters relating to money and health is a key estate planning focus, and for obvious reasons. And the importance of being timely in the process cannot be overstated.

Questions or concerns regarding powers of attorney, health care directives and other planning instruments can be directed to an experienced estate planning attorney.

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