If you do anything for 40 years, you are bound to have some frustrations. In my nearly 40 years as an attorney, there is one frustration that plagues me and confounds me. I don’t understand it and I have been unable to resolve it. It absolutely drives me nuts.
Why, why, why, why, why won’t people set up a bare minimum estate plan? It is a total no brainer. If you haven’t at least created a Last will, when you die, your State’s laws will decide how to disburse your estate. No one’s wishes will be considered. No one’s plans will be followed. No logic or reason will be employed. The distribution provisions are set out in your State’s laws. The judge who oversees the distribution (and make no mistake, there will be judges and lawyers involved) has no power to do anything other than distribute the estate as set forth by the state laws. There is no room for deviation or individual concerns. No sympathy or considerations of what is best are involved. It is black and white.
Did you know that most states Elder law services for a percentage of your estate to go straight to your children, even if your spouse survives you? Did you think that your husband or wife would get everything? You’re wrong. In some states, as much as 2/3 of your estate will go to your children with only 1/3 to your surviving spouse. Is that how you want to leave your husband or wife? Do you really trust your State Legislature to make your decisions for you? That is exactly what will happen if you do nothing.
I send people information all the time and they sometimes get back to me years later, if at all. They procrastinate. Hey, I understand procrastination. I have been known to procrastinate myself. But this is a chore you must not postpone until it is too late. Of course some people move quickly, but usually when some crises or urgency exists. Someone is seriously ill, a long trip is planned, or someone they know died without an estate plan. Don’t wait for the emergency or you risk being too late with terrible consequences.
I can dream up many excuses people might have, such as: It’s not urgent; I can always do it later. I can’t afford to do it now. It is not in my budget. I hate to talk about death. I don’t know what I want to do. I’m too young. What if I get a divorce? I don’t have very much. What if I change my mind? I don’t have time to spend with an attorney. I don’t know anyone who does this work. Yada, yada, yada…
There is absolutely no reason not to have an estate plan other than you have no estate. You own nothing of value. If that’s the case, you have much bigger problems than not having an estate plan. There is no other valid reason not to have a plan in place. Not one.
Let us address some of these excuses.
1. I’m too young. It’s not urgent.
Nonsense, no one is too young. No one is impervious to accidents or illness, unless they are flying around with a big “S” on their chest. Do you not watch the news or read a newspaper? People of all ages die every day. Of course, the odds may be against it being you, but there is always the possibility. Unfortunately, just when you realize it’s too late, it really is too late. You know what? Tomorrow is too late. I absolutely guarantee you that tomorrow, hundreds of people will die in this country who are not prepared and didn’t expect it. Don’t let that be you.
2. I don’t have time.
Ridiculous! Make time. If you are waiting for more free time, you will wait forever. I’ll bet that everyone who reads this has at least 10 things on their calendar in the next 30 days that are not nearly as important. I know I will win that bet. What could possibly be more important? Maybe if you are getting married next weekend or are prepping for a Bar exam, you could wait a short time, But barring some giant time consuming event, you can fit it in. A phone call to make an appointment will only take a few minutes. I’m not talking about spending 3 days in a hospital or something. It shouldn’t take more than a few hours to get it finished. Lack of time is the lamest excuse of all. I’m talking about the equivalent of a few TV programs. Isn’t this much more important than the latest episode of NCIS. Just do it!
3. What if we divorce or we change our minds about what we want to do?
A valid concern with an easy answer. Wills and Revocable Living Trusts (the most common plans) are not set in stone. They are flexible. They can always, always be amended or revoked (although no one can change your wishes after you are dead).
4. I don’t know how to find someone to prepare the documents.
Another valid concern with an easy answer. Look in your phone directory for estate planning attorneys. (Hint: They may be expensive. Be sure to get prices up front.) Go on line and look for a document preparation service experienced in estate planning. There are many. Call your local Bar Association. They usually have referral services. Talk to friends, relatives, and co-workers. Who did they use? Were they satisfied? How much did they pay? You might choose to contact me or another ezine author.