Procrastination with estate planning is common, but nonetheless unfortunate. Without a proper estate plan, you risk family conflict, placing a burden on loved ones during a difficult time, and ultimately leaving less money for the people you want to provide for. Having an estate plan is like having an insurance policy—you hope you never need it, but when you do, it’s there for you. I have heard many excuses for failure to plan during my years of practice and describe a few of my ‘favorites’ below.
Excuse 1: My Estate Is Too Small
A common excuse I hear often from folks is that they do not need an estate plan because their estate is too small. This is a terrible misconception. Whether it be four figures or seven figures, the conflicts are the same. Sometimes, $1,000 will create more conflict than $1 million! The amount does not matter. Without a solid plan, the possibility of conflict grows exponentially. In addition, regardless of your net worth, you need a well-written Power of Attorney so that someone can care for you properly if you’re unable to take care of yourself.
Excuse 2: Indecision
If you are having trouble deciding whom your Executor and/or beneficiaries will be, you are in good company. I often see people continuously delay planning because they are ‘stuck’ on one decision. My advice is to make the best decision possible in the moment. You can always tweak your estate plan in the future. Life is not static; we are continually faced with new circumstances, and your estate plan must reflect those changes.
Excuse 3: General Delay / Too Many Other Things To Do
Our 24/7 society, where we are all juggling too many things at once, makes it challenging to set aside time for estate planning. Too often I have seen people who have failed to plan, only to be suddenly faced with unfortunate circumstances. None of us has a crystal ball, and we have to be ready for the curveballs. Now is the moment to invest some time to begin your estate plan or review an existing plan.
Excuse 4: It Costs Too Much
A well-crafted estate plan is an investment for you and your loved ones. It can save on unnecessary government fees and taxes, as well as additional attorney fees later on. An estate plan may expose planning opportunities for your family to preserve assets in case of long term care needs down the road. Seek a qualified attorney that you feel confident will recommend a pragmatic plan for you. Avoid searching for the cheapest solution (i.e., a ‘simple will’). A will is just the tip of the iceberg. Building an estate plan is like building a house. Everyone needs the foundation (Will, Powers of Attorney, Living Will) but most of us need custom solutions on top of that. Seek common sense solutions that fit your needs; that may include a trust or other tools. A good attorney will explain why he or she is recommending those items and explain the costs involved.
Excuse 5: The Kids Will Take Care Of It
It is tempting to push estate planning responsibilities onto the next generation, but it’s not fair to your children or loved ones. The best gift you can provide your family after you pass away is clear instructions on how you want your estate administered. No guessing, no conflict, no extra burden on your grieving family. Some clients don’t want to talk about their estate plan with their loved ones, but when you do so, you put everyone on notice that there is a plan, what your expectations are, and more.
Make a resolution to start your estate plan in 2020, or if you have an estate plan, take some time to review it this year. Try to avoid these common excuses (and many others) that deter proper planning.
For a review of your current plan or if you are without a plan, please call my office at (215) 706-0200 to schedule your consultation.