It has been a very busy year so far. Calls to the office are way, way up.
Perhaps it's folks getting moving on their New Year goal to finally get their will and trust in place. Or perhaps it's the newest virus sweeping the population at a steady pace that has people taking mortality a bit more seriously. Maybe it's both. Either way, if you've been thinking about estate planning lately, you're not alone.
I love taking the new calls and hope to be able to always find the time to do it. One of the first questions I ask a potential client when we initially speak is how long they've been thinking about estate planning.
Usually, the response is something like “a long time” or “since we had our first child.” Last week, a new client told me she had been working on it for 20 years! To her credit, she had been reading about it, and even worked through a DIY book on creating a trust, but it never resulted in a completed project.
Moving from Concept to Action
Oftentimes, we need a little help to move things forward. Although we “can” do just about anything on our own, if we are willing to put in the time and accept the risk, our time is often better spent working with an expert. After speaking with my new client on the phone for 19 minutes, her 20 years’ worth of thinking and research all came together. She had been to our website, and had even selected what estate planning package she believed she wanted, but (like most) she needed a real connection with a person to feel comfortable and confident moving forward. She needed to know that someone fully understood her problem and exactly how to solve it. Now, she’ll have a completed estate plan she feels great about in approximately 30 days after doing my online interview and having a video call with me to fine tune the details. “It’s so nice to have found someone I can work with on this!” She said as we wrapped up our call.
Odds are good that, since you’re reading this post, the subject of estate planning has been top of mind for awhile now. That’s a great start, because it means there is a reason that it matters to you. More specifically, there are people you are looking to provide for when you no longer can. That’s what it’s about. We want to finish well and leave a road map for our loved ones, not a series of messes to clean up.
Why People Put off Estate Planning
Feeling a bit overwhelmed about the topic of estate planning is very common. It can be unpleasant to think about our own demise and how it will affect those around us. You may not understand exactly what to do, or have concerns about what it will cost or how much time it will require. Or you may just not know what you want and be afraid to get it wrong. Let’s address those concerns right here right now:
“I’m not sure what all I need”
Everyone needs basic estate planning documents that solve the problems that come along with incapacity and death. Without them, you are putting your loved ones in a situation where they will likely have to resort to the court system and default state laws to carry on if you become incapacitated and unable to manage your own property and finances, or after you have died.
The basic documents everyone needs are:
1) A Durable Power of Attorney for Property
2) A Health Care Directive; and
3) A Will
If you also own a home or any other real estate, have minor children, or have over $100,000 in non-retirement related investments or cash, there is also a good chance that a living trust should be on the above list for you as well. It acts as a substitute for your will and makes sure things run along smoothly (privately and outside of probate court) if you become incapacitated or when you pass away.
"It’s too expensive and/or I don’t have the time"
Don’t let yourself off the hook with this excuse. If you think it’s too expensive, you haven’t yet realized the cost of doing nothing. If you don’t have the time, do you think your loved ones will have the time to sort out what you couldn’t find time for? I guarantee it will take them a lot more time and stress than you would want for them to have.
Plus, you’re probably overestimating how much it will cost or how much time it will actually require. Here are some reasonable estimates that apply to 80% of people:
Time: 6-10 hours spread out over 3-4 weeks
If you think you can’t handle that, then you just haven’t considered the cost (to your loved ones) of inaction.
"I’m not sure what I want and don’t want to get it wrong."
Again, this is natural procrastination related self-talk. Here’s the reality:
“Any plan you make today will be better than the result of doing nothing at all.”
The above statement really is true. Also keep in mind that your estate planning documents are revocable and changeable by you throughout your lifetime as circumstances change.
Taking the First Step
Like my client discussed above, estate planning may have been on your mind for quite some time. Taking a first step with an experienced estate planning attorney can go a long way towards advancing your journey of having a plan documented that you feel great about.
If this resonates with you, feel free to book a 20-minute call to explore your personal situation and your best course of action. You can book a call through my online calendar here.