As an elder law and special needs attorney I get a track-side seat for a pile of planning train wrecks: Here are the best ones . . .
Great Idea One: Do not have a will. Let state law determine how assets will be divided (they won’t all go to a spouse if there are any children). Without a will many valuable planning opportunities are missed, thus insuring maximum havoc.
Great Idea Two: Do not have an effective power of attorney. Without a power of attorney, a guardianship may be the only option, which will be expensive and subject the guardian to court supervision and bonding.
Great Idea Three: Sign over all property to the kids if bad results are the goal. Mom may believe she is protecting her property, but she is subjecting the property to the liabilities and risks of the kids (divorce, anyone?), not to mention that some of the kids may be thinking of moving to Rio. Giving the property to the kids can also insure they pay maximum capital gains taxes when they sell the property. Certain types of trusts are a much better alternative, but not as much fun if creating maximum damage is the goal!
Great Idea Four: Skip the health care advance directives. Let everyone argue among themselves to decide who gets to make health care decisions.
Great Idea Five: Do not do any long term care planning. Buying long term care insurance is way too responsible. Also, it is better to wait until there is a crisis (Dad has gone into the nursing home) because at that time there are fewer options and any course of action will likely be more expensive.
Great Idea Six: If there is a disabled child, duck parental responsibilities and avoid taking advantage of the many planning opportunities available for a special needs child. Disinherit the child and leave everything to the siblings. Maybe “they’ll do the right thing.”
Great Idea Seven: Carry inadequate insurance. This is a real winner! Do not carry a good Medicare supplemental policy so that there will be maximum exposure to whatever Medicare does not cover (which is plenty).
Great Idea Eight: Do not do any planning after a “late” second marriage, especially if there are children from the previous marriages. In this manner a perfect storm of battling families can be hoped for. Also, treasured family assets can be used to pay for the nursing home expenses of old Whatsisname instead of going to the kids.
Great Idea Nine: Do not, under any circumstances, update an old estate plan. Laws may change, but the dedicated Train Wrecker knows that he need never change!
Great Idea Ten: Never, ever seek good professional advice. With good professional assistance things may go too smoothly. If you absolutely must have some help, limit expenses to less than $100 and buy something online. Or better yet, seek the advice of a neighbor.
Bonus: Do not do anything.