Probate abuse aided by longer life spans

Estate disputes are becoming more common and longevity is a factor that often opens the door to complicated situations.  Longer life spans accommodate second marriages and geographical relocation.  With longevity comes chronic disease along with deteriorating physical and/or mental conditions.  All of these circumstances can at a point become issues within an abusive probate action or attempted misuse of a probate instrument.

So what are the ins and outs of longevity?  The QMS Financial web site recently featured a Jilian Mincer post that says most Americans underestimate their life expectancy.  Living Longer:  The Good News and Bad says:

How long do you think you’ll live? Whatever your answer, it’s less grim than you think: Two-thirds of Americans underestimate how long they’ll live. And with life expectancies at an all-time high, that otherwise-good news is becoming a serious challenge for retirement planning.

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, the average life expectancy is now over 78 years for the first time in American history. For people who are healthy and have good genes, it’s even higher. A 65-year-old healthy man has a 50% chance of living to age 85 and a 25% chance of living to 92, according to the Society of Actuaries. For a healthy 65-year-old woman, there’s a 50% chance she’ll see 88 and a 25% chance to reach 94. If those two people are married, there’s a one-in-two chance one of them will celebrate a 92nd birthday.

To read the full post, click here.

Meanwhile, several important points can be taken from this information.  First, life may seem short, but it’s likely to be a lot longer than you expect.  Plan for your later years.  The U.S. economy will soon dictate ending the everyone’s-a-victim/everyone’s-entitled age.  Running out of money forces change.  On top of that, with the number of folks “pulling the wagon” dwindling and with increasing demands on their efforts wearing thin, the productive class might soon be dictating some new realities of their own.  (Who is John Galt?)

And second, this increased longevity will only fuel threats to the property and civil liberties of all people through questionable estate actions.  Those people having responsibly planned for the future will become potential targets for probate abuse by virtue of having financial resources.  Any amount you have is more than someone else doesn’t so estate size is meaningless – wealth is relative – and someone always wants what you have.  A lack of resources, however, offers no protection.  In this game, not having resources simply shifts a person to having “headcount value.”

As our elderly population grows and our opportunities for prosperity dwindle, a return to fiscal responsibility on the part of both individuals and our government could go a long way in minimizing the challenges ahead.  Such action might then offer future generations the same opportunity that many of today’s adults have enjoyed in their own lifetimes.  Such bold action doesn’t yet seem on the horizon, but hope remains.

Reform of our probate system including its surrounding culture of corruption is another critical avenue of action.  Though progress seems limited, the last five years have brought much exposure to the ugly realities of probate systems.  We’re optimistic that this momentum will continue to grow, but meaningful reform will be a long, arduous process.

The future is full of much uncertainty, but with responsible determination, uncompromising discipline and continued belief in the principles on which this country was founded, a path to prosperity for Americans of all ages can again be found.