It is often argued that estate planning is necessary to prevent family feuding in the aftermath of a passing. Disagreements about “who gets what,” how to handle funeral issues, and other concerns are known to tear friends and family apart. Being explicit about one’s wishes ahead of time–and letting relatives know early on–is the ideal way to avoid surprises and present the best opportunity for disputes to be squelched.
But proper planning does more than prevent feuding after a passing; it can also prevent it before one’s death. That is because disagreements about caring for aging relatives is often a bone of contention. Arguments about who is going to make decisions on their behalf, what type of long-term care will be pursued, and similar concerns can cause ruined relationships just as much as any inheritance dispute. All of this makes it imperative for local community members to visit with an NY estate planning lawyer early on to ensure legal documentation is in place so that there is no uncertainty about how any of these issues are to be decided. Considering the prevalence of cognitive brain issues (i.e. Alzheimer’s and dementia), prudent planning requires these matters be handled as soon as possible.
To get an idea of how these sorts of disputes play out, one need look no further than newspaper headlines discussing the situation around legendary actress and international celebrity Zsa Zsa Gabor. As reported by My Desert News, a court recently ruled in a case caregiving dispute that originally pitted the actress’s husband against her daughter.
The 96-year old Gabor’s health has apparently been in decline for some time, and she requires close support to manage her affairs. Last year her daughter allegedly learned that the actress’s home was in foreclosure as a result of missed mortgage payments. This led her to question the care her mother was receiving from her husband. Eventually a out-of-court agreement was reached between the parties that resulted in the husband (Frederic von Anhalt) being appointed conservator of the estate.
In court papers released this week, it seems that the temporary conservatorship was extended by a court. This is notwithstanding the fact that von Anhalt a six figure loan against his wife’s real estate holdings (valued at over $10 million).
The Gabor case is a reminder that it is critical to delineate who one wants to make decisions in the case of incapacity. Leaving the question open is often an invitation to dispute. That is especially true in blended families or where second or third marriages and adult children are involved.