Estate Planning: simple vs. easy

Simple and easy are two words that we often use in the same context, even though they have very different meanings. For example, let’s look at the game of golf.

Golf is a very simple game: You hit a little white ball as many times as necessary to get from the tee to the green. Once on the green, you tap the ball as many times as necessary until it goes into the cup. Repeat this process 18 times, and that’s a game of golf.  Golf is a simple game, but is golf an easy game? It certainly isn’t for me – I know how to make golf difficult.

Estate planning can be viewed in a similar way.  Estate planning is very simple: It’s the process of deciding what will happen to your stuff when you die or become incapacitated. Is estate planning easy? Absolutely not!

There are many challenging decisions which need to be made as part of the estate planning process. This is one of many reasons why people procrastinate or avoid the estate planning process altogether. The more difficult a decision is to make, the more important that decision is, and the more devastating are the effects of procrastination. Here are a few tips and observations which might encourage you to get started with your estate plan.

  1. You can’t take it with you. 1 Timothy 6:7 reminds us, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”  We all know this, yet so many times we live our lives in a way that could be represented by a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer.
  2. Even if you haven’t made an estate plan, you have one. Since you can’t take it with you, and not everyone has an estate plan, there are laws, policies and procedures in place to deal with your stuff in the absence of any direction from you. If you’re not comfortable with the government deciding what to do with your stuff, let today be the day you start your estate plan.
  3. Since estate planning involves some difficult decisions, find an estate planning professional to guide you through the process. Just like the golf pro that can make golf look easy, an estate planning professional can guide you through the process and keep you out of the “sand traps.”
  4. When searching for professional guidance in this arena, it is important to make sure that your values are in alignment with your advisor’s values. A financial professional will gather information, analyze that information, and then make recommendations. If you feel like someone is trying to sell you something, you may be working with the wrong person.
  5. Let today be the day you make the commitment to get started. Your first step may be as simple as putting a date and time on the calendar to sit down with your spouse and start talking about this topic. It may be picking up the phone and calling a financial professional.  It might be attending a seminar or workshop to gather more information. Whatever you see as your first step, make the commitment today.

October 15-21, 2012 is National Estate Planning Week. There may be a variety of events or resources offered in your community as part of Estate Planning Week, make sure you take advantage of them. Having an estate plan is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your spouse and children and the only way to lose the opportunity to give that gift is to procrastinate. The only way to hit a golf ball is to swing the club.  Fore!

One thought on “Estate Planning: simple vs. easy

  1. I think overall estate planning is really not easy at all. I mean it’s planning for the future without you there, it’s planning without any assurance of success.

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