Excuse 5 – “I can’t afford an attorney!”


The fifth and final excuse in our motivational estate planning series, “5 Excuses That Can Devour Your Estate & Destroy Your Family,” is best suited for Halloween in light of the horror stories I’ve seen and heard over the past 25 years from distraught people who decided against paying an attorney for assistance.  I get cold chills just thinking about it.  I’m not sure if it’s fortunate, or unfortunate, that I’m not permitted to share these stories with you for ethical reasons.  If it served as a wake-up call for readers and spared families from similar heartache, I’d gladly impart a gasp or two.  The California Bar says I can’t, so I’ll simply share a story from our helpful book entitled “Looking Ahead; Estate and Long-Term Care Planning for You and Your Family.”  Although it has nothing to do with my clients specifically, it certainly captures the essence of things I’ve experienced as an estate planner.


The “Risk of Not Planning” on page 22 reads:  “You may wonder whether you need a lawyer to do your estate plan.  Maybe yes and maybe no.  But why take any chances?  A man who recently died apparently had an aversion to lawyers, but not to estate planning.  Both in his apartment and in his safe deposit box, he left many pieces of paper saying that he wanted all of his estate to go to his favorite niece.  These included a trust that he got out of a form book, statements that property in the safe deposit box belonged to his niece, and other papers purporting to be his last will and testament.


Unfortunately for him, and even more for his favorite niece, none of these papers had any legal standing.  The trust was not funded.  The statement of ownership of assets in the box was not a completed gift to the niece because there never was delivery – the act of giving the assets to her.  And, the purported wills were not properly witnessed.  So the niece got a third of the estate instead of 100 percent.  In a less cooperative family this also could have led to costly litigation, ironically to the benefit of lawyers whom the uncle was trying to avoid.”


All that to say, you can’t afford not to use an attorney.  The truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know, and it’s a very costly truth.  I don’t know the niece, yet my heart goes out to her.  What if it were your niece, your son, or your daughter?  Are you certain that you couldn’t do things differently with your finances to free up money for proper planning?  Maybe a used vehicle will serve the same purpose as a brand new vehicle that depreciates 70% in three years.  Maybe the speed boat or fishing boat can wait.  Maybe it’s time to give up a few bad habits that will knock years off the length of your life with your loved ones in order to build up the kitty for important matters.  I don’t know where the money is presently being spent that is keeping you from planning your family’s estate with an attorney.  I only know that it’s there if you look hard enough.


A colleague said today that he’s baffled by people’s behavior around estate planning.  He happens to be in a state where people tend to procrastinate because there are no Federal Estate Tax issues.  What he can’t understand is why they don’t consider the practical stuff?  Forget taxes.  There’s far more involved with good planning than taxes.  He shared that one gentleman wanted to do a pre-nuptial agreement for over a year.  He wanted to support him around it so he sent him a note that said, “When would you like to finalize things?”  The man responded, “I haven’t proposed yet!”  Baffled by his response, he shared that – and I quote – “short of calling people a damn fool, I can’t make them do what they need to do.”  He’s right.  He can’t make people do anything they don’t want to do.  Neither can I, or any other attorney.  We’re here to help because you need it, even if you may not know it yet.  To avoid pitfalls and pain, you must take us up on it.


Enough said.  It’s time to wrap this article up and set you free so you can get into action and protect your family.  To recap, the five excuses that can devour your estate and destroy your family are:


Excuse #1 – I don’t own much, so I don’t need an Estate Plan.

Excuse #2 – Joint Ownership with my child is sufficient.

Excuse #3 – I can do a Will myself (a.k.a. Do It Yourself Wills that WON’T!)

Excuse #4 – There’s always tomorrow…

Excuse #5 – I can’t afford an Attorney!


Steven Grayhm said it best.  “Excuses are the tools with which persons with no purpose in view build for themselves great monuments of nothing.”  I’m confident that’s not what you desire for your family.  If you prefer to create an excuse and procrastination free legacy of love, give me a call at (408) 741-3500.  I’ll gladly discuss your family’s needs and provide some good guidance and direction.  The first chat is always free.


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