“Ethical issues in estate planning can be quite subtle and are often overlooked,” John E. Hughes once wrote in the New Hampshire Bar News. While Hughes was referring to issues involving attorneys and their legal practices, a second article, this one by Jerry E Shiles in Lorman.com (an organization offering ongoing education for attorneys), talks about estate planning issues that are simply part of modern day life.
The frequency of ethical and legal dilemmas has increased dramatically in modern life, Shiles believes, because medical advances are allowing people to live longer, giving rise to several important issues:
- ”Increasing numbers of clients remarry or form new close relationships following the death of a spouse. Assets are often co-mingled.”
- “It more often occurs that life expectancy is prolonged beyond a person’s mental capacity to take care of his or her own affairs.”
- “Longer life and economic growth also mean that many elders have substantial assets worth fighting over.”’
- “Children increasingly live far from their parents, lose contact with their lives, and
are less familiar (and perhaps less sympathetic) with their desires and decisions,”
At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, the challenges inherent in the combination of increased life expectancy and complex family dynamics have constituted the fabric of our work for almost twenty-five years. It is not only the greater complexity of estate planning that has been affected by increased longevity, we know, but business formation and succession planning, the creating of premarital agreements, plus resolving issues commonly faced by same-sex couples..
One ever-present factor in estate planning, we communicate to Geyer Law clients, is simply the passage of time. Time is what allows for circumstances to change and “stuff” to happen. Adult children, siblings, and grandchidren marry, divorce, remarry, and adopt. Legal issues arise with family-owned businesses. People relocate to a different state. Individuals given power of attorney fall ill or die. While estate planning is based on assumptions, those assumptions are proven incorrect as circumstances inevitably change.
Ethical dilemmas will always be an element in estate planning, and simply – part of life!
– by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates blog team