About two years ago I had a client stop by the office without an appointment. He said that he was going in for surgery the next day and wanted to update his Durable Power of Attorney. As we discussed the changes he wanted to make, he also mentioned that he should really update some things in his will. Within an hour and a half the client left with a new Durable Power of Attorney and a new Last Will and Testament and appeared to be happy, but I wasn’t.
We squeezed what would normally take several hours over the course of two or three meetings into a single one and a half hour meeting. This certainly didn‘t allow for me to properly counsel the client and give him an estate plan that addressed all of his family and financial issues. In fact, while the client only had a simple will, he had an estate valued at in excess of $5,000,000. This would mean probate because of the simple will and attorney’s fees of around $80,000. In addition, since the majority of the client’s estate was invested in real estate, this would mean fire sales of the various properties to pay the nearly $1,350,000 of estate taxes that would be due nine months after his date of death.
The client survived that surgery and lived for about another year. During that year when I ran into the client at social events or in the grocery store, I encouraged him to come in and do proper estate planning. Each time he always said that he knew his plan was not sufficient and that he would call to make an appointment that week, but he never did.
Now the client’s two children and I are dealing with the huge mess he left behind. Currently the children aren’t speaking and those $1,350,000 in estate taxes are due in mid-August while the estate only has about $200,000 in cash. If the client would have only taken the time to build a solid foundational estate plan and take advantage of only one or two advanced estate planning techniques, then his children would be much happier and receiving a larger inheritance. Instead, he let the government and his attorney “inherit” a large chunk of his hard earned money.