Teresa Scott

Article Summary:

10 reasons people avoid will and estate planning and first steps to getting started.

Will and Estate Planning - 10 Reasons People Avoid It

While interviewing clients over the years about their plans for the future and what, if anything, they have done about their estate planning, I have received a number of replies. Here are the most common:

  • We are too busy to plan our lives.
  • We are having enough trouble making ends meet now. We will worry about the future later.
  • We have thought about writing a will, but we do not know a good estate planning attorney, and we can't afford it now anyway.
  • I have life insurance, so my family will be okay.
  • We cannot agree on who would raise our children if something happens to us, so we have done nothing.
  • We have been unable to put money away for our children's education, so we do not know how they will pay for college.
  • I am planning to inherit from my parents, so I am not worried about my retirement.
  • My spouse and I are having a few problems with communication, so there may not be a "future" for us.
  • I cannot decide how to divide up my estate. I have had problems with my youngest child, and I do not know how to handle her in my will.
  • We have been meaning to do something...

Sound Familiar?
There are not many people who can honestly say they have a PLAN. Maybe they feel it would be to confining to make a plan. The thing is, you can always change your PLAN. It is not set in stone. Neither is a will. Make it for the circumstances of your life now, and change it in the future. Instead of the PLAN controlling you, think in terms of you controlling the PLAN.

Feeling Overwhelmed?
Small steps may be required here. Don't try to do everything at once. Just back off from your life for a little while and try to come up with an outline for your PLAN. The first step may be to take a walk or a drive or go away for the weekend. Talk your favorite aunt into watching the kids and escape from your life. It may give you a new perspective and set you free from the demands of your everyday life.

The first step is to figure out where you are.
Take a good, hard look at your lives. Look at what you have and what you owe. Look at your jobs. Do they fulfill your family's needs, not just financially, but emotionally? If you are unhappy or stressed out, or spending too much time away from your family, maybe this is not the job for you. Face it, if something were to happen to you, your employer could replace you. Could the same thing be said for your family? Hopefully not.

Talk about everything.
I had a client a few years ago who said he and his wife used to plan a weekend every year around their anniversary when they would go away and just talk about their lives. They talked about their children, what they wanted in life, how their jobs were going and any changes they wanted to make. When their lives started going in different directions and they stopped making time for their annual meeting, the marriage started to fall apart.

Maybe you need a little help.
There are a lot of things to consider in your PLAN. There are always the tax and financial implications. If you do not have a trusted advisor, ask around. Just make certain you are comfortable with the advice you receive. If you do not feel the advisor has your best interests in mind, BACK AWAY. I think the best thing about using an advisor is that you can get mad at him or her and not each other. I always felt it was better for the clients to aim their anger at me, because I did not have to go home with them.

Make a list and prioritize it.
Make a list of the things that are important in your PLAN. Prioritize your list. Try to figure out when you want to implement the items in your PLAN. For instance, maybe you want to try and save for your child's education. Don't throw up your hands and say the costs are skyrocketing and there is no way you can ever save enough money. You are right - maybe you can't, but something is better than nothing. Start small and go from there. Have a little chat with your child. Involve him or her in the planning. There is no law against your child working and helping to save for the education. Emphasize the importance of good grades and possible scholarships. There are a lot of options - it just takes a little planning.

You may be surprised at the rewards that come your way. To quote Charles Dickens, "these are the best of times, these are the worst of times". By planning, maybe you can take advantage of the "best of times" and help protect yourselves against the "worst of times".

Teresa Scott is a practicing CPA who has survived over 29 tax seasons. She is the President and founding member of Life Plans, Inc., the ultimate everything-in-one-place document organizer and planning system. For more information visit www.life-plans.net.

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