Even though the last two years have seen an unprecedented interest in estate planning, according to Gallup, less than 46% of United States residents even have a will, let alone a full estate plan. And, this is an issue that follows us into our golden years as just under one-quarter of those aged 65 and older had a will. But, without even a basic will, when we pass, we are leaving all of those important post-death decisions to some random judge.
Not just about death
Remember, an estate plan is not just about those post-death decisions, it’s about us right now too. Living wills contain our medical treatment preferences, which is especially useful if one becomes incapacitated. That same Gallup survey found that more than 25% of adults were forced to make medical decisions for a loved one, like whether to remove them from life support. No one wants to leave such a burden on our loved ones.
A love letter
Think about it this way, everything that is in an estate plan is there because the drafter loves their family. In a way, it is a love letter to our families. It takes away the burden of figuring out who gets what, one’s medical wishes, burial and funeral arraignments, etc. It creates a pathway that can avoid litigation and additional heartache. After all, we do not want to pile on, in addition to our deaths. Especially for those with large estates, dying without a will or a comprehensive estate plan can permanently fracture a family as fights over the estate grow more and more contentious.
On the other end of the spectrum, a comprehensive estate plan is also about creating a legacy. It can help shape organizations, causes and build communities. It can provide for our family. It is an outline of how we will be remembered.
The first step is always the hardest. Decide to estate plan, and then make the call, send the email or do the web search. Start now because we do not know when our time will be up.