It is part of human nature to procrastinate. People tend to put off any responsibility that seems unpleasant, even if delaying those actions causes them distress or put them at a disadvantage. For example, most adults understand that delaying the estate planning process leaves their dependent family members in a very vulnerable position. They may also understand that there won’t be anyone who can speak on their behalf in an emergency or that there could be confusion about their medical preferences among their loved ones.
Yet, despite the obvious issues that arise when someone dies or has an emergency without an estate plan in place, it’s still very common for people to put off drafting a will and other estate documents for as long as feasibly possible. Unfortunately, some people wait too long and put their loved ones in a very difficult position. What is the cutoff for the creation of estate planning paperwork in Illinois?
People may eventually lose capacity
Obviously, someone who dies before they’ve created an estate plan won’t have any say about what happens to their property or their loved ones. The risk of undergoing healthcare that violates someone’s religious ideals or of the wrong people inheriting from an estate can be a powerful incentive for some adults to put together comprehensive estate plans.
However, someone doesn’t need to die to lose their ability to control their property and their daily life. Cognitive decline associated with age or caused by injury could also leave someone unable to draft legally binding documents. Adults need to retain their testamentary capacity if they hope to create effective estate planning paperwork.
Someone’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia could have an immediate impact on their ability to draft valid documents. If nothing else, their recent diagnosis will likely make it easier for family members to challenge their paperwork in probate court after they die. Once someone’s family members or caregivers have gone to probate court to seek guardianship or conservatorship, any ruling affirming the concerns about their capacity would effectively prohibit them from creating new testamentary documents in the future.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that adults in Illinois who want to maintain control over their legacy and over the care that they receive as they age to have the foresight to plan long before they require the support of a guardian or are near the end of their lives. Understanding when estate planning may no longer be an option can (hopefully) help those concerned about the future overcome the impulse to procrastinate.