- They are intimidated by the process. Estate planning does not have to be intimidating – you just need to know what to expect. Most attorneys will have you fill out a questionnaire that lists your assets and liabilities and asks you questions like, “Who do you want to appoint as your personal representative of your estate” or “Who do you want to appoint as your agent under a Durable Power of Attorney?” You should come prepared to the initial consultation with any documentation you want the attorney to review, or any questions you may have. The attorney will review your goals and make suggestions or recommendations. The consultation generally takes one to two hours, and then there is a follow-up meeting to sign your planning documents which takes about an hour. It’s that simple.
- They just don’t care. Some clients tell me that they intend on spending every dime before they die, to which I say, “Go for it!” However, what about the things that could happen to you before you die? What if you become incapacitated? Who will pay your bills? Make healthcare decisions on your behalf? Estate planning is not about planning for death, it’s also about planning for incapacity.
- Not sure who they’d appoint as personal representative, agent under a power of attorney or health care surrogate. Certainly, these can be tough decisions, but that’s not a good reason to procrastinate. If you do not have family that you can trust, look to your friends, a pastor, a bank representative, a trust company, or even your own attorney.
Estate planning is not about planning for death, it’s also about planning for incapacity.
- Think they are too young.Remember Terri Schiavo? She was 26 years old when she suffered cardiac arrest which left her in a vegetative state. If she would have had a durable power of attorney, living will and health care surrogate designation, you may never have heard of her. Her situation is the perfect example of how you are never too young (if you are an adult) to do your estate planning.
- Think it’s too expensive.The cost to do your estate planning really depends on what area of the country you live in, and whether you choose to have an attorney prepare the documents. You could “do it yourself” by purchasing software, or buying forms from your local office supply store. However, if you have a complicated situation, it might be smarter to utilize the services of an attorney.
- They don’t have time.The process doesn’t really take that long (see #1 above), but you have to make the time to fill out some paperwork and meet with an attorney (or answer the questions on software if you are going to do it yourself).
- They don’t think they have enough assets to worry about it.As I’ve already stated, the Last Will and Testament (which governs what happens at death) is not the only document an individual should have. You need to appoint someone who can deal with your finances and health care decisions should you be unable to do so, and that’s where a Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will and Health Care surrogate designation come in. These documents allow you to appoint someone that you trust to make financial decisions and health care decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated and while you are still alive.
- They think it will get done when they are gone.Notwithstanding what’s already been covered regarding incapacity issues that could arise prior to death, yes, it very likely it will get taken care of after you are gone. However, if you do a little planning, you could make it easier on your loved ones.
- It’s too complicated (so they stick their head in the sand).It doesn’t have to be complicated, and if you think it is, see #1.
- They don’t want to think about their mortality.Ok, this we all can understand. Who wants to think about their mortality? No one that I know. However, once you’ve accomplished the process, you will have peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order!
Laurie Ohall is a board certified Elder Law attorney with license to practice in both Florida and Ohio. For more information about planning documents, please contact the Brandon, FL Estate Planning Offices of Laurie Ohall today.
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