Today I want to share with you the true story of Jim and CB and their estate plan. It begins in 1991 when Jim turned 65 and retired from a successful sales career. Their daughter happened to be a lawyer, and since Jim and CB were already busy taking care of other details related to retirement, their daughter insisted that they also prepare their estate plan. So they did. It’s not that they had a large estate, but what they did have was the result of a lifetime of hard work and they wanted to make sure they took care of what they had.
21 years passed. In that time, Jim and CB bought and sold real estate, inherited a small interest in some producing mineral rights, added (and subtracted) in-laws, and celebrated the birth of five grandchildren and six great grandchildren. But along the way CB discovered during a routine physical that sometime in her lifetime she had contracted a chronic disease that could not be cured; it could only be managed. Doctors warned that CB had a long, tough road ahead of her, and they were right. In the beginning, the symptoms were light or non-existent. But in April 2012, her beautiful life came to an end, after spending the last 5 years under intense medical care and supervision.
With CB now gone, the question for Jim became: How sound was their estate plan?
Fortunately, from time to time, Jim and CB took the time to review their plan with their daughter. They amended their trust only on a couple of occasions as the need arose. They saw to it that their children knew their wishes and they sought advice from others when needed. Because CB and Jim took the time to prepare a good estate plan some 21 years before, the family was able to be together when CB died, taking their time to grieve together. They weren’t distracted by any legal obligations they had to handle, because there was nothing to do. The trust and related documents took care of those details and there was no probate to file.
Unfortunately, this story represents the exception and not necessarily the rule. Too many families do not plan ahead. Then they feel lost when illness strikes, or when someone dies they have to hire an attorney to sort out and handle details for them. Sometimes they have to file probate. The majority of the probate actions I have filed in my career involved clients with feuding family members fighting for anything and everything they could get their hands on. You may be thinking, “Oh, that would never happen in my family.” You’d be surprised. You can avoid that with an ounce of prevention.
I’m glad that my family sees the value in estate planning. You see, CB (whose real name is Clarabelle) was my Mom. She was a good ol’ Texas gal born in Kirby 77 years ago and raised in San Antonio. She met and married a handsome war veteran and they celebrated 59 years of marriage together. They took turns taking care of each other in life. And through their estate plan, they took care of each other in death too. This article is dedicated to Jim and Clarabelle Lefler, and is written with love and appreciation for them. We all miss you, Mom.
For more information on estate planning and other legal needs, or if you have a legal question you would like for me to address, please visit my website at www.leflerlegal.com, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 512-863-5658 or 512-677-5LAW (-5529). My office is located in Georgetown, Texas.