I have written in previous entries about the importance of estate planning, and specifically about the importance of having a trust. No one really likes to think about estate planning, because, as I’ve mentioned before, doing so means confronting your mortality – and I can certainly appreciate the unpleasantness of that exercise. However, the unpleasantness involved in planning for your family’s future is far less than the heartache and difficulty you may cause by not making those plans. If you want to see families at their worst, just spend a morning at probate court sometime. Then ask yourself if estate planning is truly too much for you to handle!
As twenty-first-century human beings, we are all expert at making excuses, especially when it comes to things we don’t really look forward to doing anyway. As a family and estate planning attorney, I have heard them all: “I don’t have time”. . . “It’s not in the budget right now”. . . “I don’t really have that many assets to worry about”. . . “My wife knows who gets what; she’ll take care of it when the time comes.” Of course, none of these are terribly good excuses for putting off your estate planning, but that doesn’t stop people from using them. One excuse I frequently hear is some version of the following: “I will have to gather up all sorts of documents, talk to all my children, and make some really difficult decisions – all before we even meet.” It is this particular excuse, which I call the “Preparation Excuse”, I’d like to address in this post.
Does it truly take several days, digging through boxes of documents and making dozens of phone calls to family members, to prepare for an initial estate planning consultation? Absolutely not. While I cannot speak about what other attorneys’ practices might be, I typically schedule estate planning sessions in my clients’ homes, so that they needn’t worry about forgetting to bring something important. I also walk my estate planning clients through a series of questions, which are designed to ensure that nothing is omitted. Can’t remember exactly how that niece’s married last name is spelled? No problem; I can wait while you grab the address book. Not sure how to describe that particular necklace you want to leave to your youngest daughter? Why don’t we look at the necklace together, right now, and I will craft a proper description of it for you?
The reality is that the Preparation Excuse is just as unavailing as all the others I hear. While ideally you (and, if you are married, your spouse) will make some basic decisions ahead of time (for example, whether you wish your remains to be buried or cremated, whether there are specific persons or organizations to whom you’d like to leave something, whether there is anyone you specifically intend to disinherit, etc.), it isn’t necessary to do so. Instead, you should think of the estate planning meeting as a workshop, an opportunity to work out the details. And, if there is a detail you haven’t quite sorted out, even by the end of our estate planning session, not to worry. You can always “sleep on it” and then get in touch to provide me with your specific instructions later. I often make several drafts of the estate planning documents, and I can continue making changes right up until the documents are signed by my clients (or even after that point, if necessary).
So, how do you prepare for an estate planning consultation with me? The answer is surprisingly simple: find a two-hour window in your schedule, and then give my office a call to make the appointment. I will come to your home, and evening and weekend appointments are generally available. And, I won’t ever ask you to sign something that doesn’t accurately reflect your wishes. Estate planning is arguably one of the most important services we offer, so we won’t let the Preparation Excuse prevent us from protecting your legacy and your family’s future. You shouldn’t, either. Call SmartLaw today to schedule your no-obligation estate planning consultation.