Some recent clients of mine apologized for the length of time it took them to finalize their estate plan. It had been almost a year since our initial conference – when we first sat down to discuss their circumstances and their goals in the event of death or incapacity. It’s not uncommon, as an estate planning attorney, to hear stories about why clients or potential clients don’t have an estate plan: I don’t like to think about my own death; it’s too depressing to think about; I know I need a will but it’s not that important right now. But once a client takes that first step to schedule an appointment and sits down with an attorney to discuss the what, who and when of an estate plan, the process typically moves forward in a relatively short period of time. Initial consults are held. Documents are prepared, reviewed and revised. The clients come back to sign their documents and finish the process. It’s relatively quick and painless.
What’s interesting is that one of the most common reasons I hear when clients are ‘delayed’ in finalizing their plans is “life happens.” It’s not that don’t think they’ll die, or that the cost is too much, or that they just don’t want to think about it. Rather, I hear that ‘life happens’: we had a vacation planned; the kids were in school; the holidays arrived; we just got busy. But, the excuse that “life happens” is exactly the reason why estate planning should be on your year-end to-do list if you don’t have a plan in place already or it has been more than 5 years since you last reviewed it.
We live in a world that shows us on an almost daily basis that life happens. Hopefully, we will not be forced to personally deal with the kinds of tragedies the world has seen recently. But, for each tragedy we see on the 6 o’clock news, there are as many if not more ‘everyday tragedies’ that should reinforce the idea that life really does happen, and when it does, will we be ready? Ahead of your New Year’s Resolutions, consider your estate plan. Do you have one? If so, how long has it been since you reviewed it?
If you don’t have an estate plan, do you know what will happen to your assets in the event of your death or incapacity? If or when “life happens”, will your loved ones be prepared to handle what comes next? Have you left them with the necessary tools to carry-out your goals? Are the people you trust the most empowered with the authority to do what’s in your best interests or the best interests of your family? Creating or reviewing an estate plan will help you answer those questions.
In addition to answering these questions, giving the gift of estate planning at this time of year will be a gift of security, satisfaction and possibly even relief for you and your loved ones. As often as I hear about the reasons clients don’t have an estate plan, just as many times do I hear how relieved they are, how secure they now feel that a plan they have crafted is in place.
So in the spirit of the season, consider making a gift of estate planning for you and your family. Life happens. Will you be ready for it?