You’d be hard-pressed to find any family that would rather sit around the table discussing estate plans than go out to eat, enjoy the day outside, or do just about any other activity together. No one likes to think about our inevitable mortality, but we all know that it is just that—inevitable. However, estate planning can be an immense blessing to any family in a time of great loss. Below, we discuss five of the most common emotional blocks that family members face when trying to establish a successful estate plan.
Roadblock #1: Discussing Death
Talking about one’s own mortality isn’t a particularly fun thing to do, especially in the company of a partner, a spouse, children, or grandchildren. But the reality is that not discussing death doesn’t keep it from happening. Instead of simply sitting down and talking about your future death with your family, try to use gentler terms, like “when I’m gone” or “once you’re on your own.” Finding softer ways to frame this topic can help you and your loved ones move past the associated negative feelings and on to thinking about the next steps and how to move forward with efficiency.
Roadblock #2: Assessing Assets
To craft a successful estate plan, you must account for every asset. And if you’re well established and have lived a long life, you’ve likely accumulated quite an estate. But it can be overwhelming to think about assessing each and every account, property, car, painting, piece of jewelry, and more — so overwhelming, in fact, that you may find yourself putting it off altogether.
If you’re able, work together with your spouse or a loved one to start two lists: a financial list and a physical list. As you think of things you own, start jotting them down in the appropriate categories. Once you have a fair amount of assets listed out, you can begin working on the next set of details by breaking the categories down into smaller, more specific subsections; listing out prices or values; and thinking about who you’d like to have which assets. Move through this process one small step at a time to reduce the feeling of overwhelm while still making progress toward the completion of your estate plan.
Roadblock #3: Working With a Lawyer
This is one roadblock you may not have even realized existed: working together with a lawyer. If you’ve worked with a trusted attorney in the past, this may not be an issue for you. However, for those who must work with a lawyer for the first time, the search for an attorney can be intimidating, nerve-wracking, and confusing. But estate plans can be complex, and it is important for you to make sure that you’re drafting one that offers tax benefits for your loved ones and protection for the things you love.
If you’re apprehensive about hiring an attorney, asking friends, family, or other trusted professionals for referrals may be a reassuring step in the right direction. And if your attorney doesn’t listen, they speak over your head, or you just have a bad feeling about them, don’t be scared to pick up your things and go. Developing an estate plan that addresses your needs and concerns is far too important to settle with the wrong professional.
Roadblock #4: Deciding Who Gets What
Uncomfortable truths can start to surface when you begin thinking about who should be left with what. Even happy parents and kids with no family issues must be realistic about the future. What’s the likelihood that a widow will remarry? What will happen if a child dies unexpectedly? What if there’s a divorce in the family? And things can get even harder to discuss for families who are struggling. Do you leave a large sum of money to the child who’s battling addiction, or do you give the majority of your wealth to your more stable child? If things have gotten rocky between you and a loved one, do you disinherit them altogether? There’s no shortage of emotional decisions to be made around who should get what in the event of your passing, but you can’t let that stop you from pushing forward in the decision-making process — or else you may lose control of who receives what altogether.
Roadblock #5: Paying For an Estate Plan
Establishing a successful estate plan doesn’t come cheap. But if that’s keeping you from creating one, it may help to think of it as establishing a legacy for your family and leaving a gift to your beneficiaries. Taking the time to work with a professional now can save your family members from costly tax obligations or other fees associated with dividing up your property.
Discussing an estate plan is no walk in the park, but it may be easier to address if you think about what an estate plan truly is — the gift of passing on a legacy to your loved ones in a tax-efficient manner. Take your time working through the emotional roadblocks discussed above, and keep moving forward in developing a successful estate plan now to protect your family in the future.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.