13 reasons why… People Procrastinate and Don’t Do Their Estate Planning
There are a number of conversations that are inherently difficult – that first romantic breakup as a teenager, having the birds-and-bees talk with your children or telling loved ones about a divorce. The most difficult conversation, however, might just be talking about the end of your life – talking about death. There are a number of reasons people avoid this discussion. Understanding why you’re avoiding it can help you work up the courage to have this important conversation with people who are close to you. Here are 13 reasons (yes, named after the recent Teen Suicide Netflix show) why people avoid this topic:
13. People Just Don’t like to Think about Death or Money.
Talking about wills and trusts forces you to confront mortality and money, two issues that can be difficult to face and hard to discuss. This is particularly true if you are healthy, the young adults in your life are well and don’t feel you have much money.
Unfortunately, health is a precarious thing. As we have seen recently, a stray gunman at a CW concert in Las Vegas or a tractor trailer barreling down the highway does not care that you take care of yourself and that your grandfather lived to be 100.
12. Estate Planning is for rich people
Most people also don’t focus on the right issues when they think they don’t have much money. When you die your estate consists not just of the money you really use on a day to day basis, but also your life insurance, the equity in your house, the full value of your retirement plans and everything else you own. That is usually a lot more money than you think you have to deal with. And without planning, your family could lose money and time while in the Probate process instead of having immediate access to your assets.
11. Planning is for old people
For most people, their most important ‘asset’ is actually their children and estate planning can create a safety net for them especially if they are minors – you can dictate who and how they will be cared for when you are gone. And you can even provide them with wealth into their adult years while still protecting them from predators, divorce, creditors and bankruptcy. Without planning, your ex-spouse or your new trophy wife could control the money that was supposed to go to your kids.
10. My small business partner will do the right thing
Unfortunately, when you die without the right planning, the value of your share of a business goes down leaving your spouse and kids at the mercy of any small business person seeking to capitalize on their loss. If you want your business to continue to support your family, advanced planning including building an EXIT strategy is paramount. And leaving the responsibility to care for your family on your business partner isn’t rational – could your spouse realistically continue your work with your prior partner?
9. Everything is going to my spouse anyway
This is true – in the case of your death. But what if you are incapacitated and someone other than your spouse should be making the financial or healthcare decisions on your behalf? Is your spouse the right person to solely manage your assets? And what if you are recently divorced? Or if you have kids from a prior marriage?
8. There’s No Hard-and-fast Deadline.
Many people can’t accomplish anything until a deadline looms. But when it comes to will, trusts and incapacity, the crucial and final deadline often comes without warning - i.e. the aforementioned tractor-trailer. The earlier you start the process, the easier it will be and the more options you will have.
7 . I will be dead anyway
Probably the most unfortunate outcome in the case of the death of a family leader is the in-fighting that occurs after that stabilizing force is gone. While childhood sibling rivalries and emotional responses are normal, setting the family up to fail is avoidable. Instead of giving your money to the government or lawyers to represent fighting faction of the family, establish a plan and if you must give your money away, doing during your lifetime through gifts or even charitable donations is much more rewarding.
6. People Are Afraid something they don’t understand.
If you understand the paperwork, it becomes a little less intimidating. Ask questions about anything substantive you don’t understand. Keep asking those questions, writing emails and basically forcing your attorney to make sure you understand what will matter to you. Also give up the idea that you will understand everything you are signing. It took me months in law school to understand the Rule Against Perpetuities, and you just have to trust the paragraph I write in your document to waive it.
5. You Won’t Live to See the Largest Benefits of Your Estate Plan.
The main beneficiaries of your Will and other estate transfer planning will be your heirs. It can be difficult to devote yourself to this task until you accept your family’s priorities as your own. Think of estate planning as a love letter to your loved ones – when you cant speak for yourself or when you are gone. Every Foster Legal Advisory Group estate plan will include at least FOUR lifetime documents that can dramatically affect your qualify of life - an Advance Heath Care Directive, a HIPAA release, a HealthCare Power of Attorney, a Durable Power of Attorney and in some cases a Pre-death Cremation Authorization. The signing of these documents will help your family in crisis – at a time when making those hard decisions will be devastating without your direction even before you are gone.
4. It Might Mean Making Hard Decisions That Could Arouse Negative Feelings in Loved Ones.
Maybe you’re concerned your family will be angry when they learn the details of your estate plan. But can you imagine the wars that will occur within your family if you dont step up and mediate the issue now? The fact is those problems won’t go away when you die, in fact kids often freak out when a parent dies so by not planning you are just making them another relative’s problem. There are no new family problems under the sun, and dealing with it head on, and using a professional who has seen these things before, is the best way to make sure the hard decisions are made with a minimum of hard feelings.
3. Not Doing Your Estate Planning Can Be a Form of Passive-aggressive Behavior.
If you’re not happy with your future heirs, failing to complete necessary wills or trusts can be a subconscious way to punish them. That said, often heirs and for sure the Government will receive more if you don’t do an estate plan then they would have if you do.
2. Some People Just like to Live for the Moment.
Some procrastinators simply can’t—or won’t—force themselves to pass up short-term pleasure and sit down to complete their estate planning, even if at some level they understand that doing so will provide them with far greater long-term satisfaction.
1. Guilt Feeds upon Itself.
The real number one excuse for not doing an estate plan, when you know you need one, is the wall built from guilt about not doing estate planning. You do love your family and would do anything while you are alive to protect them but feel guilty about not doing your estate plan. There is something about not doing your estate planning that is about the avoidance of adult responsibilities. If you are an adult, if you have children, if you have another person that would be impacted by your death or incapacity, you need to deal with what may happen if you are incapacitated and what will happen when you do pass away. If you have a family, avoiding dealing with these issues means passing the buck to someone else to do it after you are gone, and in a way that cannot approach how well it could have been done while you were alive.