Let's face it, estate planning makes people nervous. I can't sugarcoat that, no matter how hard I try.
Fears about paperwork, expense, and having to face uncomfortable topics — like end-of-life decisions, incapacity, guardianship of minor children, and your family's legacy from one generation to the next — hit home for everyone and can easily create feelings of uneasiness and discomfort.
But while those feelings might seem like a good reason to avoid estate planning, the emotional nature of these decisions is actually a reason to embrace the process with enthusiasm. Here are some great reasons to overcome your fear, and get it done:
Estate Planning Creates Stability in Times of Loss If you end up incapacitated later in life, it's guaranteed to be difficult for your family. If your estate plan does not include detailed instructions for a trusted decision maker, it's guaranteed to be even worse. You can save your loved ones from the confusion and uncertainty of what you want and what to do, and the pressure to make rushed decisions later, if you overcome your fear now. You can allow them to move ahead with a clear focus and save their energy and emotions for processing the situation as it arises.
Comprehensive Estate Plans Keep Personal Matters Private Detailed, creative, living trust-based estate planning keeps your private matters out of the public eye. When your estate plan is nothing more than a simple, “I love you” whispered in your spouse's ear, you run the risk of your estate going through a legal proceeding at court called Probate. This means that assets and choices (or the lack of them) become visible to those outside your immediate family and inner circle. If you fail to make choices, the Court will decide how and what happens. And if you do make choices, the public Probate process can easily invite controversy and conflict which a living trust might have otherwise completely avoided. If talking to a lawyer about your estate plan makes you uncomfortable, imagine how it will feel to have your family talk about it to a judge in an open courtroom.
ESTATE PLANNING CAN BRING A FAMILY TOGETHER We've all probably heard about situations in which siblings argued with each other over what their parents left them as beneficiaries. But the opposite can also be true. When you get your family and other loved ones involved in your estate planning, you gain a wonderful opportunity to show them how much you care. Creating your estate plan together can strengthen the bonds of love in a family and serve as a reminder of those bonds for years to come. For example, there's a huge difference between two children discovering (after their parents pass away) that only one of them has been named Trustee, and two children who, together with their parents, decide that their unique talents are best utilized if one of them steps into the role of Trustee while the other cares for the parents' medical needs in a disability situation. The potential for family conflict can be minimized or mitigated when the parties involved make or discuss difficult emotional choices and overcome their fears together.
YOUR ESTATE IS ABOUT MUCH MORE THAN MONEY Estate planning is about a lot more than just wealth, and taxes. During estate planning, we discuss things like significant family heirlooms, your prized antiques or hobby collection, and other matters totally unique to your particular life. We can look into the memories and intellectual property you want to make sure your children or favorite charities receive, including photos, art, and even videos or audio recordings of family stories you'd like to share with future generations. Leaving a legacy that communicates your core values to your descendants is one of the most rewarding benefits of estate planning, but it can't happen unless someone takes the plunge to overcome the fear of starting the process.
AN ESTATE PLAN MEANS YOU'RE NOT GOING IT ALONE You shouldn't have to face trying times and make difficult decisions alone. Your estate planning attorney will have answers, suggestions, and recommendations that will help support you through this process, and can educate your appointed agents about their responsibilities and duties when the time comes so you have the peace of mind knowing that your family will be in good hands if anything happens to you. The thought of setting up everything yourself and on your own can be a stressful one; but these kinds of decisions are much easier to make with a trusted advisor by your side.
We want you to feel ownership and investment in getting your estate plan to reflect who you are and what you want, and to help you overcome the natural fears that we feel when facing this process. Estate planning is an opportunity to look at some of life's big questions, and ultimately to make sure that your family feels your love and concern for them through the choices you make now. Contact us today to see how we can create custom-made solutions that do just that.
A special thank you to Dan McKenzie in Colorado for his many ideas in this posting.