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Estate Planning: Procrastination Could Have Harmful Results

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Sad to say, many people have not done any meaningful estate planning.

By Linda T. Cammuso

Sad to say, many people have not done any meaningful estate planning. Not because they are trying to deprive their heirs of assets, but rather simply because they find countless excuses to procrastinate. Here are some of the excuses we use for procrastinating about estate planning.

Cost: “An estate plan is expensive and more than I can handle right now”

We spend our lives working hard to build our wealth and assets.  Doesn’t it make sense to invest in professional fees now to avoid unnecessary taxes, protect your financial legacy and preserve family harmony later on? When you consider the high costs your heirs could pay if you don’t have an estate plan, the cost of developing one is inconsequential. In fact, the cost of an estate plan might be much less than you expect.

Age: “I’m too young to worry about estate planning now. I don’t even have an estate“

Even if a person has few assets or no children, estate planning also includes provisions for important decisions during life, such as naming agents in a health care proxy and durable power of attorney to make decisions in the event you become disabled.

The Death and Dying Discussion: “I can’t talk about it”

As unpleasant as it is to acknowledge our mortality, creating an estate plan does not mean that something is suddenly going to happen to you; it means that you value yourself and your family enough to do what is best for your loved ones’ future security. More often than not, people who have completed the estate planning process achieve peace of mind knowing that they have planned for their loved ones.

Time: “I don’t have time, maybe next year”

If you have time see a movie, go to the dentist or work out at a gym – you have time to meet with an estate planning attorney. Preparing an estate plan should be at the top of you priority list. An estate planning attorney will develop a structure and timeline to make the process less time consuming.

Will: “I already have one and that’s all I need”

There is a misconception that if you have a will, you have an estate plan. That is a myth. A proper estate plan also includes health care directives and a financial power of attorney; it often includes a trust to avoid probate, protect minor children, maintain family privacy and protect assets from general creditors or the cost of long-term care.

I need to think about it”

This is yet another unfortunate excuse for postponing an estate plan. It is important to be an informed consumer, but once you know your options it’s time to take action. Don’t allow yourself to get bogged down with “what ifs;” figure out what is holding you back (anxiety? confusion? price?) then go for it.

In closing, delaying your estate plan can have serious consequences including unnecessary taxes, loss of assets to creditors and nursing homes and incorrect disposition of assets among your intended beneficiaries. On the personal side, in the event you become disabled, a stranger could make life and death decisions for you rather than someone whom you love and trust. One key factor in having a good estate plan in place is peace of mind; knowing you’ve done the right thing for you, your business and your family. Of note, if you created an estate plan years ago, the laws or your circumstances may have changed. It is a good idea to update your plan periodically.

Linda T. Cammuso is a founding partner of Estate Preservation Law Offices located in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is a skilled estate planning and elder law attorney and has authored many articles on elder care and long term estate planning issues. She has appeared on Money Matters Radio and has been a speaker for various community and professional organizations. 

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