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Confusion is the Enemy

Because we do both real estate and estate work, we sometimes have clients who are elderly. This is one real estate lawyer who went through a phase as a psychologist. Please don’t be impressed. There were many phases and in none of them was I either well paid or steller. But I do have an interest in psychology.

One thing I see very frequently among older owners and clients is indecision. I know, for instance, that they need to make a will or a trust, but it’s hard to do. It’s hard because decisions need to be made and they aren’t easy, and it’s hard to do because it takes discipline to make a decision and do something. That’s true for all of us, even if we aren’t old.

Incidentally, one day we can talk about what “old” really is. I figure that until I’ve caught up with Don Anchors, I don’t have to answer that.

The other trait I see among older clients is confusion. Please don’t misunderstand. Young people get confused. Any time the evidence from which we must make a decision gets blurred or ambiguous, the decision is hard. It causes confusion whether you’re young or old. If you aren’t comfortable with the internet, or with small , loud noises or rude people, decisions and choices get more difficult.

I had a client in my office today who had sent many thousands of dollars to an out-of-state closing agent in a very confusing real estate deal. The closing papers were computer generated and e-mailed to him. He was more than 80 years old, had trouble reading the documents, and responded by sending large sums of money on promise of a closing. It never happened, and the people have all disappeared.

With all that’s going on, it’s hard to generalize advice in the process of growing older. But there are a few rules that might be helpful:

  1. Indecision can be lethal. If you know something has to be sold or a will has to be made or changed, then do it. The greatest benefit of a lawyer, even if he doesn’t specialize in what you’re trying to do, is that either he or someone in his office will bug you until you do it, if you let him know that that’s his job. Your lawyer won’t tell you what to do, but he will tell you that you have to do something and will sometimes tell you that a good decision made today is better than a perfect decision planned for tomorrow.
  2. While doing nothing because decisions are difficult can be harmful, acting at a time of confusion is as well. My client who sent money because of a contract he didn’t understand would have been better to find a lawyer or real estate professional, whom he trusted, and doing nothing until he understood.
  3. Find someone you trust to take the time to give you advise. If that person is a professional, and probably they should be, pay them, and then don’t keep them in the dark about the reasons for your indecision, or about confusion if you have it.

Having old body parts is hard enough. Your friends can’t help you with that. But if you fall into that category and will admit indecision or confusion, a caring professional can help you.

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