A recent article in Forbes uses estate planning disasters of the rich and famous to highlight the importance of getting your affairs in order -- and the pitfalls for leaving things to chance. The article describes how Eva Gabrielsson, the long-time girlfriend of Stieg Larsson -- author of the wildly successful Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series -- ended up fighting with his family over Larrson's estate. Larrson died at age 50 without a will. Under Swedish law -- which apparently is similar to the intestacy laws in New York -- Gabrielsson was entitled to none of Larsson's estate, notwithstanding that they were a couple for 32 years prior to Larrson's death. The very public fight over Larrson's estate quickly became ugly, with each side hurling nasty charges at the other.
The Larsson saga and others described in the article highlights an issue I run into frequently: how to answer the question, "when should I see you about my estate planning?" My (tongue-in-cheek) answer is, "call me six months before your are going to be disabled or will die, and we'll be able to get your affairs in order."
This type of conversation points out the concern many people have about estate planning; namely, a fear that they might get their planning done "too soon" or "too late". As the Forbes article points out in describing the Michael Crichton estate fiasco, the solution to that dilemma is to ensure that your estate plan is updated regularly. In our practice, we offer an annual maintenance program that ensures that our clients' plans are reviewed and modified every year to keep current with changes in our clients' lives, changes in the law, and changes in our knowledge and experience. By participating in a formal maintenance program, you are assured that you will never do your estate planning "too early," as your planning will be modified to keep up with the many changes affecting your estate plan.
Click here for the link to the Forbes article.