Why do many people resist estate planning? I think that there are several reasons:
1. Estate planning forces us to confront our own mortality.
2. Some people are uncomfortable talking about their private lives with attorneys.
3. Indecision and overwhelm.
4. Expense and reluctance to deal with attorneys.
However, if you let these emotional hurdles stop you from creating an estate plan, you may miss out on the emotional benefits of estate planning.
It feels so final to contemplate what will happen to your loved ones and to your things after your death. This can be an uncomfortable feeling that can prevent you from completing your estate plan, especially if you have young children and are considering who would care for them if you are unable to do it. To some, contemplating your death can feel like admitting defeat. These are all common reactions to the need to plan your estate.
However, I find there is a sweetness to the realization that someday you will not be walking around on this planet because this realization can lead to a deeper appreciation for every day that you are alive. It can lead to a recognition of your priorities and ways to make your daily activities more consistent with them.
Most likely, the well-being of your loved ones is important to you. Preparing your estate plan can make their lives after your passing easier because they will know your wishes and have the authority to carry them out. Knowing that you have softened their pain may bring you relief.
Writing your estate plan is an expression of who and what are most important to you. Revealing these priorities can make you feel vulnerable emotionally and physically. You may have aspects of your life that are not flattering or that you wish to keep secret for other reasons.
If you are feeling emotionally vulnerable, preparing your estate plan online may be the best alternative for you because you do not need to reveal your wishes to anyone face-to-face. At California Trusts Online, you simply complete our questionnaire and receive your documents. If we have questions about your wishes, we will email you. When you sign your documents in front of a notary public or witness, you do not need to reveal anything more than the type of document you are signing (such a Trust or a Power of Attorney, etc.)—you do not need to tell the notary or witnesses what your documents say.
If you fear that your physical safety would be in jeopardy if someone were to read your estate plan, we recommend that you give your signed documents to someone you trust who would know if you became ill or died. You do not need to share them with the person threatening your safety.
If you are married, you have the right to dispose of your separate property and your one-half of the community property without interference from your spouse. You do not need to give your half of the community property to your spouse after your death. However, if you do not prepare an estate plan, most likely your half of the community property will be given to your spouse.
Indecision and Overwhelm
Indecision can arise when you feel overwhelmed figuring out whom you want to receive your things and who has the best skills to negotiate the estate landscape after your death.
To overcome this sense of being overwhelmed, you can break these decisions down and ask yourself this series of questions:
1. If you had endless resources, who would you give them to? What charities would you give to? Make your top few choices your Beneficiaries.
2. Do any of these Beneficiaries have the skill, emotional maturity and time to oversee your estate so that you could name them as your Trustee, Executor or Agent? If you own a business, rental property or complex financial investments, you will need to choose someone with an understanding of those issues. If you have chosen a Beneficiary who has special needs, take that into consideration when choosing who will oversee your estate.
3. If none of your Beneficiaries is appropriate to manage your estate, can another family member or friend do it? If not, consider a professional fiduciary or trust company.
4. Do you have specific items that you want to give to specific Beneficiaries, such as family heirlooms, jewelry, or business interests? These are considered specific gifts.
5. What percentage of everything else do you want to give to your Beneficiaries? This is your remainder distribution which will be calculated and distributed after the specific gifts are distributed.
When filling out our questionnaire, you will have to make other decisions, but answering these questions will help you decide the issues that most often lead to overwhelm and indecision.
Expense and Reluctance
Lawyers are expensive and deal with issues that are unfamiliar to many, making some people reluctant to complete their estate plans.
If this is true for you, California Trusts Online may be a better choice for you because our estate plans are less expensive than traditional attorney-drafted plans and are written in plain English. We make an effort to use common terms and to avoid legalese both in our documents and on our website. We provide tons of information on our website for free, and if you have a question, you can always chat with us or email us.
I cannot tell you how many times over the last thirty years a client has finished signing their estate documents and said, “Wow, I feel so much better now that I have done this. I don’t have to think about it again.” You can visibly see the relief in their eyes, smile and demeanor. They have given their loved ones the benefit of security, and they feel confident that their estate will be distributed to the people or entities they have chosen by the people or entities they have chosen.
Estate planning is a gift that you give to your loved ones. Putting your wishes down on paper helps them know your wishes, priorities and concerns, and, if done correctly, it gives them the legal authority to carry out your wishes.
As with most other things in life, overcoming the emotional hurdles to estate planning may give you a better sense of well-being. Why not start today? Click here to begin your estate plan.