Estate planning: It’s never too early or too late

T WAS a typical appointment on a busy tax season last April. A representative for a Hispanic male in his mid-60s visited my office for a living trust preparation. So did I learn that the man was confined at the Veterans Hospital in Los Angeles but nothing too serious and catastrophic with his medical condition.
I gave the intake forms for the man to fill up and for our service agreement to be signed. It took about more than two weeks to accomplish the goal because we ended up having to do an estate planning package, which includes a Living Trust, Pour-Over Will, Advance Healthcare Directive, and a General Power of Attorney.
On May 2nd, I got the intake forms and the service agreement dated and signed; only that this time, the man is on IVs, quite a lot of them, so I was told. I sensed an urgency so I have deliberately committed to having all these documents finalized as soon as possible. Going against my usual turn-around time, after four hours of working late in the office, I finished the Estate Plan that same night and have them picked up on May 3rd. I also asked the representative to ask a certification of mental competence either from the hospital and/or the attending physician before they call me to have the man’s signatures notarized in the hospital.
At 3:00PM on May 4th, I was surprised to see who was waiting at my office reception- the man’s representative. With despair in her voice, she told me the man passed away at 11:00 AM that morning.
Nothing was signed among the documents! But she asked me whether the intake forms filled-up and signed by the man could stand.
My immediate response was “No!”. A Living Trust or any of the documents would have required valid signatures and notarization for it to be considered legally binding; intake forms are not legally binding forms. An attorney friend later confirmed my statement.
With no apparent heirs-at-law, the man’s estate, which includes a paid-off house in Los Angeles, will definitely go to probate and a great chance that it’s ultimately the State benefitting from the proceeds, unless legitimate relatives show up and fight a valid claim for it.
IT’S never too late…Better late than never…. Maxims we run into everyday. But sometimes it is too late when dealing with estate planning documents.
As they say, you can’t take it with you — but unless you do some planning you may not be able to leave it behind either. Estate planning simplifies things for survivors and can reduce the financial bite.
Nobody likes to think about death, especially in our culture where merely talking about it connotes stigma or bad omen. When you start to think about estate planning, you start to think about how you might die. It’s a sad thing to think about for many people. But you should try your best to stay strong so that those that you love can get what you would’ve wanted them to have.
Many people find it uncomfortable to talk about money and estate planning, particularly if death is near. Even if you only have a small amount of wealth, you want to make sure that if you pass on; your property goes to the right people in your life and particularly avoids probate.
Don’t wait. Do your planning now while you are feeling good and you are mentally and physically competent. No one knows when the inevitable happens…. That’s a certainty!
NOTE: Evangeline is not an attorney nor does she provide legal advice. She prepares legal documents at the specific direction of the client. She is a Legal Document Assistant (LDA # 397, registered and bonded in Los Angeles County, expires 3/23/2013).
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Evangeline can be reached at her marketing location at the  Ground Floor of Eagle Rock  Plaza (in front of Jollibee), 2700 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90041 or  at her business address at 450 N. Brand Blvd., Ste. 600, Glendale, CA 91203, phone number (323) 356-3803 or (323) 254-6787.
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The purpose of this article is to provide information of general interest to our clients and prospective clients. The information provided is general in nature and should not be considered complete information on any product or concept described. 

Evangeline Giron
Evangeline Giron

Evangeline is a California registered tax preparer, a legal document assistant for the general public, and a freelance paralegal offering assistance to various attorneys. She is a member of the court-endorsed California Association of Legal Document Assistant (CALDA) and an Associate Member (Non-attorney) of the LA County Bar Association (LACBA).

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