Like many Americans, you may have been meaning to put your estate plan in place, but have never quite gotten around to it.  Don’t be embarrassed!  You are not alone, and for good reason.  At least seven barriers get in your way requiring great courage and effort on your part to overcome.  The first step is identifying which of the following barriers stop you:

  • “I don’t know.”  Most people don’t know that if they don’t have an estate plan, the State of California controls what will happen to their children, debts and assets when they become incapacitated or pass away.  The state’s system is called probate court.
  • “I don’t have an estate”. Many people I ask about whether they have an estate plan say, “I don’t have an estate.”  Estate planning is not just for the wealthy.  In fact, it’s not the wealthy who are filling up the probate courts right now.  The probate court steps in to run your life at incapacity no matter how little money you have.  Your conservator must report to the probate court every year for the rest of your life on how your assets are being spent for your benefit.  Sometimes our “estate” happens when we die due to life insurance, retirement accounts and lawsuits we bring against the person(s) who are responsible for our premature death.
  • “I don’t want to talk about it.” Many people find it emotionally difficult to discuss their plans (or lack thereof) for death and/or incapacity for obvious reasons.  Avoidance and procrastination are the norm.
  • “I can’t afford it.” Most of us don’t have a budget for $2000-3500 that it regularly costs to hire an attorney to set up an estate plan that includes a trust.  Attorneys can be expensive.  Most of us don’t realize that an average home in Alameda would cost our families about $45,000 to go through probate instead.
  • “I’m not going to die.”  Most of us are in denial.  Even aging individuals with terminal illness want to think positive about their ability to recover.  Our culture trains us to avoid death, and that it may be bad luck even to talk about it.  So nobody does.
  • “I don’t have time.” Our fast paced work lives and family lives don’t leave any room for long term planning.  We can barely get the kids to school on time!  It’s like living month to month with no time to plan ahead.  You are not alone!
  • “I don’t know who to name.” The most difficult decision for most parents to make is who to name as the guardians of their minor children.  No one could possibly fill their parenting shoes.  Our extended family members are often dispersed across the country making this decision even harder. We worry about hurting people’s feelings or creating a burden.  There are many decisions to be made in estate planning.  Not all of them are easy.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post on how to overcome these barriers!