What Every Estate Planning Attorney Wants You to Know about Death and Dying
Let’s start with the bottom line: humans have a 100% guaranteed expiration date. I tell people I can 100% guarantee that some or all of the estate planning documents I put together will be used. Think of all the things you buy and never use. By contrast, estate planning documents, at the very least a Revocable Living Trust or a Last Will, will definitely be used.
Putting together estate planning documents
Having said that, though, people have mixed emotions about doing estate planning. There are those people who feel obligated to put together estate planning documents. Their financial advisor tells them every year when they meet that they need to do estate planning. Their accountant tells them every year around tax time that they need to do estate planning. Family members tell them at every opportunity to put together estate planning documents. Someone who just did their estate planning documents is kind of like a reformed smoker—everyone should do estate planning documents since they did. I love the financial advisors, accountants, family members, and people who have done their estate planning documents. Keep up the good work! All of these folks are absolutely right; you should get these documents done. But, until you are comfortable with the process, and buy into the idea, you aren’t ready.
What if you want to be ready, but you just aren’t feeling it? If you feel like you just can’t get over that “I don’t want to do this” hurdle, here are some things to consider:
1. If you are like most people, you have been blessed with having people around you who you love and care about. Maybe you have surrounded yourself with pets that you care deeply about. Would you take the people and pets you love and just dump them out in the middle of nowhere, without food and water, and most importantly, without any instructions on how to get back to civilization? Of course not. Not having estate planning documents put together is really like leaving your loved ones adrift without any instructions to cling onto.
2. Most of us want to be remembered in a good way. Our good list/bad list of our actions has plenty of items on it. Some of those things we controlled and some not so much. But do you really want people to remember you and say things like:
“I wish he had put his affairs in order”
“Really? This is her filing system—how can I find anything in this mess?”
“I am so overwhelmed—if only she had called that lawyer I told her about to get her stuff taken care of”
“What was he thinking?”
3. There are a ton of things we don’t want to do each day, but we choose to do them anyway. Estate planning may well be one of those things. But if you think about it, estate planning takes a total of about 10 hours, and that’s it. 10 hours out of an average of 720 hours in one month. If you spend a bit more than 10% of your time, in only 1 month, you can get the estate planning done and never have to use your time on it again.
The need for a probate if you don’t get your estate plan in order could be as high as 100%. The risk of confusion for your loved ones if they don’t know what you wanted can also be near 100%. Seems that 10% of your time, in one month ONLY, is a small time price to pay.
4. You may not be crazy about the idea of doing your estate planning documents. I bet, though, that the idea that a judge will decide, instead of you, does not float your boat. This isn’t just a threat that marketing materials for estate planning seminars use to get attendees. If you don’t have estate planning documents in place, no one is authorized to do anything. Everything basically comes to a total standstill until someone goes to court to get authority from a judge. What if that someone is not who you would want making important decisions? Tough!
Your loved ones are counting on you. Your future incapacitated self is counting on you. Get your estate planning documents done today.