To ring in 2012, many New York estate planning attorneys urged local residents to use the holiday as a reminder of the importance of preparing for inheritance and disability. A humorous Huffington Post article yesterday walked readers down the same path. The story noted that even conducting the most rudimentary planning puts one ahead of the curve, as anywhere from 58-65% of Americans have done no planning whatsoever. In explaining her own reluctance to plan, the story’s author quipped, “I got a trust together a few years ago but haven’t really planned for life two years from now, never mind when I’m in the Great Beyond, since I’m too busy planning for the Great Here and Now.”
The author rightly notes that estate planning is linked to death–an unpleasant connection that makes many put off thinking about it. Children are often the difference maker. It was explained that “when children come into the picture parents often enter the Kingdom of Anxiety, and concerns about what we leave behind are harder to sweep under the carpet.” For the author, her wake-up call came when she realized that not visiting an estate planning lawyer to figure things out ahead of time meant that if anything happened to her, decisions about who would care for her children would be decided by then-anonymous decision makers in the probate court system.
Obviously all parents have an interest in ensuring their children are cared for properly no matter what the future holds. So what prevents many from conducting even basic planning? The author believes that part of the problem is the word “estate.” Many hear the word and assume that “estate planning” is only for those with large portfolios, several homes, and valuable possessions. Sadly, many community members never realize that one needn’t have vast wealth to gain immensely from estate planning. Besides deciding who will care for children and divvying up assets, planning also helps loved one’s deal with the traumatic time after a passing.
Also, unpleasant as it might seem now, many have reported that the estate planning process forces one into the incredibly worthwhile task of thinking about where one’s life is now, where it is headed, and what is still left to accomplish. The Huffington Post story references the irreverent book “A Lively Guide to the Bitter End,” which explains, “of all the traits that distinguish humans from other animals…perhaps the most fundamental is our awareness of our inevitable deaths…What we do with that awareness is another story entirely.”
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