This article is my “Pick of the Month” from our Estate Planning & Elder Law Newsletter archive.  Take a quick peek and see if you find yourself, or someone you know, anywhere in the article…


whats your excuse

Why do people procrastinate, especially when it comes to something as fundamental as their Life & Estate Planning?  Because it is human nature to avoid unpleasant experiences and people.  Period.  For example, when it comes to experiences, disability and death are certainly not at the top of anyone’s must do list.  Even though every man, woman and child alive today will eventually experience death (according to the actuarial tables of every life insurance company – and a long history of anecdotal evidence in support), American life expectancies are increasing with every medical miracle.  That is good news.  Now, for some bad news: The longer you live, the greater your chances of wearing out physically and mentally before you pass on.  Just visit any local nursing home or hospital for proof.

When it comes to avoiding unpleasant people, most people need not wander too far from their own family tree.  And, while many Americans live in a world of almost unlimited choices, few are able to pick their own parents or the spouses of their own children, in a sense, every extended family is a unique, dynamic ensemble of individual personalities and values.  Just like a musical ensemble, family relationships can produce beautiful music or horrific noise, and oftentimes they produce a little of both.

Excuses, Excuses

The hand-maiden of procrastination is rationalization.  We human beings have an uncanny ability to rationalize our procrastination, commonly in the form of excuses.  Here are a few representative excuses to postpone proper Life & Estate Planning, along with tongue-in-cheek responses to each of them.

We don’t have time, because we are getting ready to do some traveling.  Unfortunately, most people spend more time packing their luggage than they do making proper Life & Estate Planning.

My daughter can’t get away from work to come with me for an initial consultation.  Perhaps it is best to wait until you are incapacitated or dead, so your daughter can take personal time from work and/or from an already crowded family calendar to sort through your assets, squabble with her siblings, hire an attorney and develop a first-name relationship with the probate judge.

Since my children all get along, there’s no need to bother with any planning.  You may be right.  They certainly will know your special wishes regarding your home, your bank accounts and your investments, not to mention your one-of-a-kind heirlooms (like the kind over which you and your siblings fought after your parents died).

We don’t have an estate tax problem.  Why, my business has no value without me.  Perhaps, but IRS may not agree with you, especially given your inventory, equipment, real estate, loyal customer base and goodwill.  Aside from potential estate tax problems, what plans have you made for the continuation or sale of your business?  The business your worked decades to build could crumble in a few months or be sold for pennies on the dollar to satisfy the IRS and intra-family inheritance conflicts.

It’s too expensive.  You have spent a lifetime building your wealth by working hard and making a good return on your investments.  Doesn’t it make good business sense to invest in professional fees now to avoid unnecessary taxes, protect your financial legacy (both from and for your children, as appropriate) and preserve family harmony later on?  What price tag can you put on that return on investment?

We have all heard tragic stories about fortunes lost and families torn apart upon a parent’s incapacity or death, often due to poor planning or no planning.  Conversely, you will enjoy greater peace of mind when you overcome procrastination through the Life & Estate Planning process.


Proper Life & Estate Planning is a Lifetime Process.  Once your plan is implemented, it must be properly maintained as important changes inevitably occur in your life, the lives of your loved ones, and to the nature, value and mix of your assets.  In addition, as long as Congress is in session and the Oval Office is occupied no wallet is safe.

Ask Yourself These Questions Regarding “Tomorrowitis”…

  1.  Have I selected financial fiduciaries, both primary and secondary, and am I confident they can handle the responsibilities and risks involved in serving?
  2. Have I identified and valued all of my assets in a written inventory to assist my financial fiduciaries with their responsibilities in the event of my incapacity or death?
  3. Have I selected guardians (i.e., back-up parents) for my minor children in the event they are orphaned?
  4. Have I reviewed and coordinated the beneficiary designations of my life insurance and retirement plans with my overall Life & Estate Plan objectives?
  5. Have I made arrangements in my Life & Estate Plan to safeguard, manage and distribute my assets (to include heirlooms) to loved ones according to my wishes?
  6. Have I made arrangements in my Life & Estate Plan to provide for my favorite charities upon my incapacity and/or death?


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