The Dangers of Procrastination
If you dither and procrastinate over creating even a straightforward will or simple trust, you put the future finances of your family and loved ones in jeopardy. You risk that the assets you have worked for a lifetime to accumulate or protect will not be distributed as you would wish.
If you die intestate, without a will, the state laws of intestacy will govern who gets what and in what proportions. The end result might have nothing to do with your preferences or what you believe is right. For example, some states only require that one-third of a person’s assets go to a surviving spouse. Meanwhile you may wrongly be assuming your spouse would inherit all your worldly goods in the absence of a will. And there are many other potential pitfalls.
If you are concerned about establishing guardians for minors, you need a will. Otherwise, courts will not recognize your preferred guardians as legal, even if you have documented your choice. Another thorny patch is joint ownership, whether of properties or financial accounts. The surviving owner or owners automatically become entitled to receive the entire asset, whatever your stipulations.
Are you sure you have recorded beneficiary designations correctly? If you have no named beneficiaries, the funds might end up flowing to the state. Have you been divorced or become estranged from a child? Writing or updating a will is an excellent discipline for rectifying unintended distributions or omissions, which sometimes result from outdated or poorly drafted documents.
With so much at stake, it is a wonder how many people resist basic estate planning. Some of the reasons are plain silly excuses, although others reflect deeper indecision.
Deep down, people may know these roadblocks are not justifiable reasons.
- Lots of time ahead. But healthy people have accidents, such as car crashes. Another risk of waiting until they are gravely ill is that a will might be challenged on the grounds of mental incapacity.
- Very few assets. Remember that your close connections will appreciate small heirlooms. Also, even if you have little money, you should still document end-of-life decisions. If you become braid dead, whom do you trust to decide what to do?
- Too busy; not enough time. Nonsense! It takes about an hour to meet with a lawyer, half an hour to review the documents, and another 20 minutes to sign and execute them. You can handle most of the communications electronically.
- Legal fees. Nobody likes invoices, but compare the fairly modest cost of will preparation with the amounts your estate can save through proper professional planning.
- No knowledge of estate planning or will drafting. You may feel inadequate to the task, but that is what an attorney is there for.
Reasons run deeper
You don’t need a psychologist to tell you that no one wants to confront their mortality. Yet there are other complexities that also may be blocking your progress. You need to take inventory of far more than your assets: You need to examine your relationships. Whom do you trust? Reflections on money and power can provoke negative emotions. Crucial family conversations about priorities and goals can also stir up tensions.
Or perhaps you are reluctant to relinquish control. Remember that a will can always be revised and refined later. Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good as you struggle to make it a consummate document.
The only way to overcome procrastination is to take the first step. Set yourself a deadline for an initial discussion with legal and financial professionals to get going.