I sometimes have clients who have trouble making decisions – they can't decide who should be guardian of their children, they can't decide who to appoint as agent under a power of attorney, and they can't decide exactly how to distribute their property when they pass away. And so they do nothing. Maybe they call me every so often to talk about it, or I call them to check in and see how they are coming, but still months or even years go by and they do nothing because they can't decide.
But, as I tell them, by not deciding you are still deciding.
By not choosing a guardian of your children you are deciding that a judge is really the best person to decide what will happen to your children, and any money that they inherit, if you pass away. (If you can't think of anyone to name as guardian, go read this great post by Oregon Attorney Candice Aiston.) Which family members would step up to take that role? Is it someone you want? Then name them. Is it someone you don't want? Then name someone else.
By not choosing someone to handle your finances in the event of your incapacity, you are deciding that a judge knows the best person for the job. You are also deciding that your money is better spent on court proceedings than on your care, and you are deciding that in the event of a crisis your family will be at the attorneys office and in court, and not at your bedside.
By not choosing who you want to have your property, you are choosing to have it distributed according to state law which means that it could end up in the hands of an 18 year old kid, someone with a creditor problem or in the middle of a divorce, or it could seriously jeopardize the benefits being received by someone who has special needs or is in a nursing home.
The last thing I want to do is have to have a conversation with a family in which I need to explain that yes, I had met with their mother a few times, but no, she had never been able to make a decision and I'm sorry but we need to go to court to get a guardian and a conservator appointed so that someone can pay the bills and sell the house and consent to the medical procedures.
If you've been putting it off because you think you can't make the perfect decision, just make a good decision and get your plan in place. It can always be changed while you are alive and competent, but it can't be created out of thin air when you are no longer around.
Planning, Probate and Trusts involve complex areas of law. Individual
circumstances must be considered before any advice can be given. The
general information above is not to be construed as legal advice, which
can only be given after consideration of the unique facts of each
matter. Please seek the advice or counsel of your attorney, financial
advisor or CPA as it may be appropriate.