By: Heidi R. Kemp
Emens Wolper Jacobs & Jasin Law Firm
Not everyone is motivated by the same things or even in the same way. I find that many people who come in to discuss estate planning seem to be embarrassed that they have nothing in place. I quickly reassure them that they are in the majority – most people do not have an estate plan in place. Or, people may have a Last Will and Testament in place but they do not have Powers of Attorney (or vice versa). To me, you need all of those “basic” documents. But, completing an estate plan from scratch or updating one is rarely high on someone’s priority list.
There are many reasons why people do not want to think about estate planning. They may be disturbed by talking about death or even in denial about it. They may be having trouble deciding who they want to name in certain fiduciary capacities. They may not know how to divide and distribute the assets – or any number of other reasons.
So, when do people start to think about doing estate plans? What motivates them to take that actual step? Big life events are certainly an instigator.
- If a young couple has a baby, they may start to think about who they would want to raise the child if something happens to both of them.
- If a child has special needs, often this is a situation where parents start to think and wonder how an estate plan can be put in place to ensure the child with special needs is taken care of without jeopardizing governmental benefits.
- Marriage is a large life event that usually means that someone else has entered a person’s life who he or she may want to include in the estate plan.
- Divorce can certainly be a motivator. Maybe the person has just gone through a divorce and wants to update his or her estate documents to name different people to make decisions for them. Or, maybe someone getting divorced (the person or a child, etc.) may make the person think about how assets should be structured to plan for a divorce. This can be particularly important with family businesses.
- If a person has had a recent medical scare, that may make the person think about both powers of attorney and what if something had happened?
- Death of a loved one almost always makes people think about estate planning. It could be that the person is reminded of his or her own mortality. Maybe a parent has passed away and the child has a good or bad experience depending on what the parent had in place. Very often I see people who just went through the probate process for a parent and they say, “I don’t want my kids to have to go through that.”
- Going through a family dispute over something such as jointly owned property or business can motivate someone to try to eliminate those sorts of hassles for their children.
Estate planning is partially for the person doing it. But, often, it’s much more for the people who must bear the consequences. If it’s hard for you to think about estate planning for your own sake, maybe try to think about it from the perspective of your loved ones.
So, what’s your motivation? If you feel the nudge of motivation telling you to move forward, then don’t ignore it. Life is short and crazy things happen. Take care of things while you can. I promise you won’t regret it!