January is as good a time as any to contemplate your goals for the new year and begin to fulfill new (or old unfulfilled) resolutions. Like doing estate planning. If you did your planning years ago, your goal might be to tune it up, making sure that when it is actually needed, it benefits you and your family as optimally as possible. Your estate plan may be stale if your personal or financial circumstances have changed, including the birth, death or increasing disability of a family member; marriage or divorce; change in net worth or assets; or simply the passage of time.
For sure, estate tax laws changed significantly January 1, 2013. State estate taxes can now be as important as federal estate taxes and capital gains considerations may trump both.
A properly planned estate will give you peace of mind that your assets go where you desire, with the right people in charge, and keep your family out of court.
If this month turns into the next and so on without completing your estate plan, maybe you fall into one of my top-twelve reasons why people delay estate planning. Do any resonate with you?
12. Most people don’t like to think about death or money. Wills and trusts force you to confront mortality and money, two issues that can be difficult to face. This is particularly true if you are healthy and don’t feel you have much money.
11. Estate planning is something most people are unfamiliar with or feel uncomfortable about. Because you don’t know much about estate-planning documents, you may experience anxiety or struggle with feelings of inadequacy when confronted with the subject. You know how to be a good plumber or schoolteacher or police officer or how to run a restaurant, but you don’t know estate planning.
10. There’s no hard-and-fast deadline. Many people can’t accomplish anything until a deadline looms. But when it comes to wills and trusts, the crucial and final deadline often comes without warning.
9. It’s not much fun. True, but life isn’t always fun, especially if you are an adult. If you need fun, plan a party to celebrate finishing your estate plan.
8. People hate lawyers. But not all people hate all lawyers; you can find one you can relate to.
7. People are afraid of massive amounts of paper. If you understand the paperwork, it becomes less intimidating. Be prepared to ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
6. You won’t live to see the largest benefits of your estate plan. The main beneficiaries will be your heirs. It can be difficult to devote yourself to this task until you accept your family’s priorities as your own.
5. It might mean making decisions that could arouse negative feelings in loved ones. Maybe you’re concerned your family will be angry when they learn the details of your estate plan.
4. The size of the job can be daunting. Estate planning can be, but isn’t necessarily, a big, time-consuming task. The perceived enormity of the task can prevent some people from even starting the job.
3. Not doing your estate planning can be a form of passive-aggressive behavior. If you’re not happy with your future heirs, failing to complete necessary wills or trusts can be a subconscious way to punish them.
2. Some people just like to live for the moment. Some procrastinators simply can’t—or won’t—force themselves to pass up short-term pleasure and sit down to complete their estate planning, even if at some level they understand that doing so will provide them with far greater long-term satisfaction.
1. Guilt feeds upon itself. The real number one excuse for not doing an estate plan, when you know you need one, is the wall built from guilt about not doing estate planning, adding to any depression you might have about procrastination in other areas of your life and leading, ironically, to further delay. If you can’t move from that state, a psychologist or counselor with experience working with procrastinators might help you.
All of these reasons to delay are perfectly understandable—but that doesn’t make them any less harmful. Fortunately, you can benefit by simply recognizing them. Once you do that you realize that doing nothing can make your worst fears come true you can weigh the very real dangers of delay against the fear of thinking about money or mortality. You might discover that doing your estate plan is easier–not only in the long-term, which is obvious, but also in the short-term — since the whole subject can then be put behind you.
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