Procrastinate at your Own Risk

It is human nature to put off doing things that we choose not to confront. Each of us has a list of those aggravations, irritants, or nuisance chores that are very easy to postpone. Many can be done just as readily tomorrow, such as straightening out a desk drawer, or making an appointment for our regular checkup with the dentist.

Other more important tasks, however, need to be accomplished because the opportunity is limited. Deadlines come but they don’t go away, except in one’s rearview mirror. No one comes in through the turnstile for a ball game following the final pitch. We don’t cast our vote after the election is held. Procrastination is the act of delaying something until later, yet what if “later” doesn’t apply? This can and does happen if we wait too long to plan our estate. People do die unexpectedly, leaving behind a mess that loved ones must sort through and solve.

If a deceased person’s will or revocable living trust isn’t up-to-date (or valid), it does not mean that nothing happens. The last, legally effective document will govern, even if it leaves out a new would-be heir like a grandchild or attempts to convey property no longer owned.

Those who die without a will or living trust will have an estate that is subject to the inflexible laws of the state, not the wishes of the deceased. A court will appoint a lawyer to give full effect to those laws, pay claims, and distribute assets according to a rigid formula. That court will be either unaware or unconcerned with the priorities of the deceased.

If you die while putting off the selection of a guardian for your minor children, their support system will be unresolved until a court decides on their future. If you delayed naming your favorite charities in your will or as a beneficiary of your life insurance or IRA until it is too late, good intentions will not take effect when you are gone. Worse, details you might have wanted to resolve can fall to family members who are forced to manage them in a time of grieving or financial uncertainty. In these cased, an opportunity is missed.

The length of our life is uncertain and comes with no guarantees. These reasons and others are why we encourage all of our donors and friends not to wait on their estate-planning responsibilities. We have seen that proper planning usually means a smooth handling of the estate matters, while failure to plan frequently leads to complications, heartache, and needless expenses.

Reduce your risk. We have prepared an Estate Organizer with lots of helpful information and guides to planning. One can be sent to you tomorrow (we won’t procrastinate!) at no cost or obligation. It has prepared others to meet with their advisors and saved legal fees, and it might do the same for you. For your free kit, just give us a call at 614-338-2365 or email at jjacobs @tcjf.org. We are here to help in any way we can and hope that you will take advantage of what we have prepared for you.

Jackie Jacobs is the Executive Director of the Columbus Jewish Foundation, the central Ohio’s Jewish community’s planned giving and endowment headquarters.

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