Estate planning is hard. Despite death being one of the only certainties in life, we don’t like to plan for it because we don’t like to think about it. In addition to the emotional barriers, we often struggle with all the unknowns. Will I die tomorrow? Will I die in 30 years? Where will my family be and what will they need from me? What will my estate even look like?
Plan for Today
Our answer to the challenge of planning for the unknown is to plan for today. Trying to create an estate plan that will adequately cover all possible scenarios, present, future, realized, and hypothetical, is impossible and overwhelming. Instead, plan for what you would want to have happen to your estate if you died today, in your present set of circumstances. From there, commit to reviewing it annually yourself, to ensure it still aligns with your wishes, and also review it about every five years with your attorney, to ensure it still aligns with the latest legal changes.
For the emotional barriers to estate planning, what often motivates people into action is knowing that it is the kindest thing they can do for the loved ones they leave behind. Settling an estate is hard. People are grieving the loss of a loved one, and on top of that grief, they have to navigate the complicated bureaucracy of determining which assets go where and to whom. Many times clients become highly motivated to get their estates in order once they have had to settle a parent’s estate. We often hear, “I just settled my dad’s estate, and I never want my loved ones to go through that. What can I do to make it easy for them?” An estate plan takes care of much of that bureaucracy in advance, so that loved ones can concentrate on dealing with their own grief. A good estate plan is a final act of care we can do for our family and friends.
In sum, the keys to overcoming the barriers to creating an estate plan is to plan for today, review your plan regularly, and keep in mind how it will help your family and friends you leave behind. It’s also helpful to have a good team, including an estate attorney and a financial planner, to help guide you through the process, explain the pros and cons of different alternatives, and coach you through clarifying your wishes. Please reach out to White Oaks if you would like help getting the process started or refining what you already have in place.