I hear a lot of excuses why people are not ready to prepare an estate plan. I even used some of these myself. I thought I would share the ones I hear most frequently.
Seeing a lawyer is intimidating
Lawyers can be intimidating, plus as a general profession, lawyers do not have the greatest reputation.
Many people also think that the process of preparing an estate plan is complicated. To the contrary, the process can be quite simple. The process frequently begins with a questionnaire (which includes biographical information as well as financial).
Clients then meet with an attorney for about an hour or two to discuss goals and potential solutions. A short time later, clients will have the opportunity to review drafts, and then will meet with the attorney again to sign the documents.
I’m not sure who to appoint
This can be one of the largest stumbling blocks in making me first appointment to see an Estate Planning Attorney. In fact, my own husband delayed finalizing our estate plan for this very reason.
What I told him (and my clients) is that someone is better than no one. Get something down. If you think of someone better later, you can always revise your documents. If you are really stumped, discuss your options with family, friends, a pastor or your attorney.
I don’t have time
The process of preparing your Estate Planning documents is simple and fairly streamlined. I have put together an entire estate plan at one dinner party (though I don’t recommend it, and would prefer not to do that again).
I’m too young
Accidents and illness can happen at any time.
I don’t have an “estate”
Estate Plans include much more than just your assets. A revocable trust and/or Last Will and Testament (which relate to your assets) are only two of the documents that make up a complete Estate Plan. Other very important documents include an Advance Health Care Directive, and a General Durable Power of Attorney. These documents allow you to appoint someone that you trust to make financial decisions and healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated or injured and cannot make your own decisions (either temporarily or permanently).
The bank owns my house.
I hear this one frequently. If your name is on the deed, you own your house. The bank that holds your mortgage secures the loan with a deed of trust. What this means is that if you stop paying your mortgage, the bank can get its money by initiating foreclosure procedings. In foreclosure, the bank can force a sale of your house. If you have equity in the house, you are generally entitled to a cash payment for the difference between the sale price of the house and your outstanding loan amount.
It’s too expensive
Not having a properly drafted estate plan can end up being much more expensive in the long run. Probate fees are based on the gross value of your probate-able assets — this is not reduced by your mortgage amount. Probate fees can run to the tens of thousands of dollars, for both the lawyer and personal representative.
A hidden cost of not having an estate plan in place is the very real risk of battles between your relatives regarding who gets what. Old hurts become very present during emotional stress and where there is the possibility of money.
Finally, I don’t want any one to put off vital estate planning due to the cost. Properly drafted estate planning services should not be cheap — I worry when the fees are too low, these are often too good to be true.) However, if paying legal fees to create the estate plan that you and your family need is financially out of reach, I am willing to work with you to create a payment plan that you can afford.
I don’t want to die
Someone once said, “Talking about babies won’t make you pregnant, and talking about death won’t make you dead.”
You cannot prevent your death, but you can ease your loved ones grief by having a plan in place.
If you’ve been putting off preparing your estate plan, contact Thatcher | Law to schedule an appointment.
Wishing you peace.