Here at AgingOptions and Life Point Law, we totally understand the tendency we all have to procrastinate when faced with something that seems too hard, too time consuming, or too emotionally demanding. It happens to all of us at one time or another. But when it comes to tasks with serious implications – like writing a will – the short-term relief of procrastinating can give you real long-term pain. And most of the consequences could fall upon your loved ones.
According to Gallup, about half of all Americans have a written will. Furthermore, while seniors fare better, roughly one-quarter of those 65 and older still have no written will, leaving their successors on dangerous ground. In this 2022 NextAvenue article , writer and personal trainer Kelly K. James gives us some very compelling reasons to bite the bullet and finally get the legal aspects of an estate sorted out. If you needed a nudge, consider this your sign. (And remember that our estate experts at Life Point Law stand ready to help you.)
We should also add that, while this article focuses specifically on drafting a will, it applies to just about every aspect of estate planning. The longer you procrastinate, the more trouble you could be incurring for those you love.
When Your Will Just Isn’t On Your Radar
James begins her NextAvenue article with an all-too common tale: a couple writes a will when their children are little—usually motivated by the desire to ensure their children have a guardian if something ever happens to them—and then they don’t touch that will again for years – decades, in fact. “Why didn’t they update their will?” James asks. “It simply wasn’t on their radar.”
While a will doesn’t technically go out of date, your circumstances very well might. And if you write a will when your life isn’t especially complicated by children, investments, even divorces, you can’t assume that document will remain appropriate as your life gets more complicated over the years. “Out of sight, out of mind isn’t just an everyday adage,” James explains. “It’s one of the reasons why people 50 and over fail to write a will, update a previous one, or make other estate planning decisions.”
James goes on to explain six reasons why people fail to update their will. Maybe you can relate to one, some, or all of them. We’ve certainly heard them all before.
Reason #1: You Think You Have Plenty of Time
“Writing a will is a very easy thing to back-burner,” says Michael Monteforte, Jr., an estate planning attorney. “You know you need to do it, but it’s an easy thing to move down your priority list. Everybody thinks they have time and that they’ll live to a ripe old age, but that’s not always the case.”
We all know that life isn’t predictable, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of routine without thinking about what could happen. James advises making an appointment with an estate planning lawyer and writing it down. “What gets scheduled gets done,” says Monteforte.
Reason #2: You Don’t Have That Much Money
It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that you don’t need to deal with writing a will, since you don’t have a huge estate. But that is a mistake. Alec Broughton, a financial advisor at ARGI, puts it this way: “It is important to remember that drafting these documents is much more than just who you leave assets to. It is related to end-of-life decisions, as well as deciding who would step in if you were unable to make financial decisions yourself.”
To that end, James adds, “In addition to a will, it’s smart to have up-to-date documents like a power of attorney and a living will in case you can’t make decisions for yourself.” Again, we urge you contact us if you need help with these essential legal tools.
Reason #3: You Don’t Want to Think About Your Death
Let’s be honest: thinking about death is unpleasant. Sticky choices like making a living will and dealing with the possibility of power of attorney can put many people off from making their arrangements. But that very normal discomfort can’t be allowed to rule your decisions.
To those who are squeamish, Monteforte is empathetic, but firm. “A lot of times it comes down to me having to tell a scary story,” he says. “A lot of older folks have seen it personally — having had friends pass [without a will] and the kids are left fighting over their money.”
In our experience, working through your hesitation now brings peace of mind, not just for you but for your family.
Reason #4: It Takes Too Much Time
Ah, yes. Time: that one commodity we all wish we had more of and never seem to. It may seem like arranging your estate would be a time-consuming endeavor, but you might be surprised by how streamlined the process has become.
“There’s a misconception about how time-consuming writing a will is, but nowadays with technology you can fill out online forms and can communicate and send drafts electronically, which cuts the amount of time that’s required,” Monteforte says. “In many instances, you can plan on an hour to meet with the lawyer; an hour to review the draft; and a half-hour to sign and execute your documents.” (Of course, a complex estate takes longer, but the investment of time is still worth every minute you spend.)
Reason #5: You Don’t Want to Have to Make Difficult Decisions
Making decisions is hard, and many of us can be downright allergic to it. Add to that aura of the finality of death, and that makes everything that much more difficult.
Broughton explains, “Oftentimes, people are worried about how to divvy up their estate and aren’t sure who to leave it to. While making some decisions regarding your estate may seem final, it doesn’t necessarily mean those decisions are set in stone. Be mindful that not making a decision is a decision in itself — and that changes can always be made and should be made as life changes.”
Reason #6: You Don’t Want to Pay an Attorney
It’s no secret that hiring a lawyer for any reason will cost you. “But look at this as investments in your loved ones’ futures,” James advises.
While it can be tempting to just use free services online, they have major downsides. “Websites that let you execute estate planning documents tend to be more generic and can’t provide the personalized advice that an estate attorney can,” says Monteforte. “Seeing an expert is going to help you find the issues that you don’t know you have. Maybe you don’t want your kids to fight, but there can be other issues that there’s no way to know about because you didn’t go to law school.”
If any of the reasons above for procrastinating are still swaying you, James ends her article with this sobering thought: “Still on the fence? Think about who you will leave behind to mourn your death.” She quotes financial advisor Broughton: “The passing of a loved one is already a stressful event,” he says. “There is no need to add additional stress onto the shoulders of your loved ones.”
Breaking News: Rajiv’s New Book is Here!
We have big news! The long-awaited book by Rajiv Nagaich, called Your Retirement: Dream or Disaster, has been released and is now available to the public. As a friend of AgingOptions, we know you’ll want to get your copy and spread the word.
You’ve heard Rajiv say it repeatedly: 70 percent of retirement plans will fail. If you know someone whose retirement turned into a nightmare when they were forced into a nursing home, went broke paying for care, or became a burden to their families – and you want to make sure it doesn’t happen to you – then this book is must-read.
Through stories, examples, and personal insights, Rajiv takes us along on his journey of expanding awareness about a problem that few are willing to talk about, yet it’s one that results in millions of Americans sleepwalking their way into their worst nightmares about aging. Rajiv lays bare the shortcomings of traditional retirement planning advice, exposes the biases many professionals have about what is best for older adults, and much more.
Rajiv then offers a solution: LifePlanning, his groundbreaking approach to retirement planning. Rajiv explains the essential planning steps and, most importantly, how to develop the framework for these elements to work in concert toward your most deeply held retirement goals.
Your retirement can be the exciting and fulfilling life you’ve always wanted it to be. Start by reading and sharing Rajiv’s important new book. And remember, Age On, everyone!
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)