I learned recently that the Governor failed to sign a law adopted by the legislature in the last session, that would have required state agencies to comply with orders of the Probate Court. (Raised SB No. 940) Now, you may have thought state agencies given notice of a proceeding and an opportunity to participate, would be bound by the result of a court hearing, which is largely what a Connecticut Supreme Court case said a few years ago under a particular set of facts in a conservatorship proceeding. Advocates thought that the passage of the law mostly codified that decision, which to many simply made sense, and reduced the potential for a person relying on a probate court order only to find later that a state agency refuses to acknowledge the court ruling. The Governor’s reasoning for refusing to sign, at least as I read in a press release, seemed ill founded. Hopefully the bill can be passed again, and become law.
I ask most people I see for an initial consultation what motivated them to see a lawyer about your estate plan, now? This can give me some important information, for example, if a person has been diagnosed with a life threatening disease, or one that indicates the possibly need for years of expensive medical care. There are many different answers. In most cases, although not said exactly this way, the underlying motivation is to order one’s affairs, so upon death there is a plan in place to manage things. Not leave a mess. This is very good motivation, and caring for one’s family. In very few cases does the reason include wanting a plan in place in the event of incapacity, and over time I have come to think some of the worst “messes” occur while a person is living, but losing capacity to manage things.
Someone recently told me that he was particularly interested in arranging things to minimize the possibility of his children fighting about his affairs. I thought that a very thoughtful answer, and one that should well be a big consideration in all estate plans. This can be particularly important in who is named as agent under power of attorney, executor or trustee, or health care representative. Are they truly well suited to the work? How is their demeanor and disposition? When the wrong person / child is picked for these roles, although they may be capable in many ways, if they have a tendency to be impatient, or stubborn, or unable to discuss difficult things with people they disagree with, or not respectful of the concerns of others, such can lead to enduring family strife.
How long has it been since you have reviewed your estate plan with your attorney? It can be interesting to compare the answer to that question to how long has it been since one has seen their doctor, financial advisor or dentist. We think spending a few hours every year reviewing your estate plan is an investment well rewarded. We don’t say this because the law changes all that often (though it does in important ways at times) but because most people don’t retain an understanding of how their plan works after it is signed. Reviewing it annually allows one to develop over time a much better understanding of how a plan works, and to feel more confident that it remains the right plan for them. And to make changes if they are called for upon reflection. (It also requires you to remember where your original documents are….which is really important especially as to your Will!!)
We hope you are enjoying the summer. It is particularly beautiful as I write this.
For those who subscribe to Britbox, you may want to look into “Upstart Crow” which is great fun and although ostensibly about Shakespeare….one needn’t remember much at all of his work (or anything really) to have some good laughs. On the more dramatic side, The Unforgotten can be very powerful.