Procrastination and Denial Guarantee a Legacy of Unhappiness and Legal Fees

Procrastination and Denial are two bad characters. Like unwanted house guests, they arrive uninvited and stay too long. Procrastination, ProCrasty for short, believes you should never do today what you can put off until tomorrow. He thrives on waiting to the last minute to make decisions and take action. Denial, nicknamed Deni, is his perfect companion. She reassures ProCrasty that if he just waits long enough, things will change and maybe no decision or action on his part will be necessary. Things will just take care of themselves. Deni likes to avoid making decisions or acting at all by convincing herself that issues will go away if simply ignored long enough.

Jim and Joan were having dinner one night when Joan mentioned that they both need to get their wills written and talk to a lawyer about powers of attorney like neighbors Ward and June just had prepared. Unfortunately, ProCrasty and Deni dropped by for a free meal and joined the conversation. "There's no hurry. You're not even sick" pronounced ProCrasty. "Totally unnecessary"chimes in Deni, while lighting her first cigarette after dinner. And so, the conversation ended there for the night.

Across town, Sam had just passed away. Sam knew ProCrasty and Deni very well. Deni told Sam over and over that having a will was not necessary. Sam had four children who often told him that he should have a will. Each time they mentioned a will, he would look to ProCrasty for support. ProCrasty smiled and whispered "not yet." Sam said to his children, "OK, I'll call my lawyer next week." When Sam's wife died five years before, he did not have to do anything because his wife Sara made sure that all of their assets passed to Sam by either joint ownership or beneficiary designations and she had a will. Sara had no time for ProCrasty or Deni. But Sam did not like to think about dying or how his assets would be divided between his children or who would be in charge of deciding all of those things. So, the "next week" Sam talked about never came and as each week went by, Deni assured Sam that his kids would sort things out.

When Sam died his children fought bitterly over his money and control of Sam's estate for the next three years. You see Sam's children didn't get along very well. One had trouble managing money and was always struggling to pay his bills. One had many serious health issues. One liked to tell the others what to do. One was just like Sam, he procrastinated and lived in denial. Their feud was fueled in part by the fact that they felt neglected by their father. Why hadn't he taken charge and sorted things out?

After Sam died, ProCrasty and Deni moved into Martin and Millie's house down the street. They were an older couple and both had health issues. Millie seemed to be forgetting things much more than ever before. Friends told them about their own wills and powers of attorney and urged Martin and Millie to talk to a lawyer so they were prepared. Deni promised Martin and Millie that they didn't need to think about planning for disability or death. Even when Deni went out to buy more cigarettes and Martin and Millie would start thinking about whether powers of attorney were a good idea, ProCrasty reminded them of their busy schedule and assured them that it could wait a few weeks. Life would be less hectic then. But life never became less hectic for them. The doctor visits became more frequent. Millie's memory was getting much worse. Martin and Millie decided to move into a senior living facility because Martin needed help caring for Millie. They were told by the administrator that he strongly recommended that they have powers of attorney. So they went to a lawyer and talked about having powers of attorney prepared. When the lawyer talked with Millie and she could not describe any of the assets they owned and had trouble remembering the names of her children, the lawyer explained he could not prepare a power of attorney for Millie. She did not seem to have the mental capacity to understand what a power of attorney document really meant. Sam decided to let things go for now. A couple of years later when Millie needed to move into a memory care facility and Martin wanted to sell their house, he found out he could not sell the house unless Millie could understand and sign all of the paperwork. So Sam talked to a lawyer who explained he must file for guardianship of Millie in court. There was no other option.

The prospective buyers who were interested in the house moved on because Martin could not guarantee when he would be able to complete the sale. Months later, after spending thousands of dollars on legal fees and court costs, Martin was appointed the legal guardian of Millie. Now he could legally sell the house. By this time, money was getting very tight and the facility was threatening to make Millie leave if the house did not sell soon. After many more months, a buyer for the house was found but for much less than Martin had hoped. He was desperate so he sold. The ordeal was stressful and extremely expensive. To add insult to injury, now Martin would have to file guardian reports with the court every year showing how he was spending the money for Millie.

ProCrasty and Deni need to move on now. They are looking for a nice place to live. Do you have a spare bedroom at your place?