Lack of Coordination: The Potential for Best Laid Plans to Go Awry

By: Martin S. Shenkman and Sandra D. Glazier[1]

This article was originally published in Leimberg Information Services, Inc. (LISI).

In 1786 Robert Burns wrote his insightful poem commonly referred to as “Mousie”. In it he reflects that upon plowing his fields he undoes the foresight of mice who unfortunately built their nest in Burns’ field. He pens the oft used phrase that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”.[2] In the realm of estate planning, a lack of coordination in the designation of agents, assets and/or beneficiaries frequently causes even the best laid plans to go awry. While subsequent changes to designations made by a client may be beyond our control, attention to the potential difficulties arising from conflicting directions and designations of agents may be a discussion worth having. At least the client who is “forewarned is forearmed”.[3]

Generally, clients come to us with some general, or perhaps even specific, ideas of how they wish to dispose of their property upon death. As part of a comprehensive approach to the client’s estate plan, it’s incumbent upon us to ask who they want to be responsible for administering those assets, not only upon death but also in the event of incapacity. Because the issue of asset management and control can fall under the auspices of different fiduciaries, consideration of who they will be and how they might interact and relate can be extremely important. Creating a comprehensive plan for clients often goes beyond simply drafting estate planning documents.

Planning for aging (and incapacity) requires more than just the traditional preparation of a Will, durable power of attorney (“DPOA”) (and perhaps a revocable trust). The multitude of fiduciary and quasi-fiduciary appointments clients make, almost entirely without professional input, can create conflicts and inconsistencies in the administration of the client’s affairs. Practitioners can provide great assistance to their clients when they expand the scope of their inquiry and client discussions to address issues relating to such appointments and the importance of coordination of fiduciaries named under primary legal documents. Doing so can forewarn the client of pitfalls that could undermine the safeguards the planning team is endeavoring to create. As estate planning remains extremely relevant in implementing client desires, it’s important for practitioners to evolve and consider a broader range of practical, non-technical, considerations that can make our services beneficial to all spheres of client echelons.

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Steven Malach Participates in 2017 NAELA Annual Conference

Steven MalachSteven Malach, who heads up the Probate, Trust and Estate Planning section of Lipson Neilson, recently attended the 2017 Annual NAELA (National Association of Elder Law Attorneys) Conference in Boston, Mass. Mr. Malach participated with attendees from across the country in various sessions led by experts in their respective fields including the following topics:

  • The future of aging.
  • Fiduciary access to digital assets.
  • 50 Shades of Gray Hair; Romance in the Nursing Home.
  • Updates on Litigation to ensure a client’s wishes are upheld.

The above meetings were held against the backdrop of the historical local background in pursuing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Mr. Malach is a twenty year active member of NAELA which is active legislatively at the local, State and Federal levels.

Steve Malach Participates in Casey Kasem’s Seminar

Steven Malach, who heads up the Probate, Trust and Estate Planning section of Lipson Neilson, recently attended a webinar narrated by Casey Kasem’s daughter, discussing the unfortunate circumstances involving the late Casey Kasem’s affairs. Mr. Kasem passed away on Father’s Day of 2015. He was an iconic disc jockey of national renown and known for the Casey Kasem top 100 song countdown.

In addition to suffering the ravages of dementia, his children were isolated and told they were not allowed to see their father by his second wife. This is an unfortunate textbook example of what can go wrong with or without an estate plan that can lead to very dramatic and dynamic probate related litigation during a person’s lifetime or even after they passed away.