Whether it’s doing the laundry, cleaning out the garage, or getting that long overdue check-up, all of us face tasks each week that we dread. We convince ourselves that they’ll take too long to accomplish, be too unpleasant or too uncomfortable. And we procrastinate on getting them done.
Procrastinating is easy, especially if you’re a busy parent. Balancing work and family responsibilities, and our children’s school and extracurricular activities is time-consuming, leaving us very little free time. It’s only natural that we’d want to spend that precious time doing pleasurable things, like playing outside with our kids, having our friends over for dinner and catching up on our reading.
So it’s not surprising that two-thirds of young parents have not engaged in estate planning. After all, there are few tasks that seem more unpleasant. Estate planning forces us to confront our mortality and consider heartbreaking subjects like who will raise our children if tragedy strikes.
We reason that time is on our sides; that death and incapacity are something only much older people have to deal with. And we resolve to consult a lawyer next month, or next year, or after the new baby is born. Unfortunately this leaves many children vulnerable in the event of a tragedy.
We are not omniscient. If we knew when we were going to die, we could wait until just before the event and make sure our estates were in order. But accidents can happen at any time. Because we’re human, we have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. We owe that to our families.
Thinking about death is unpleasant, but you’ve probably been aware that you will someday die for quite a while now. And thinking about leaving our children orphaned is unbearable, but consider the alternative – if you don’t choose someone to raise your children in the event of a tragedy, a judge who doesn’t know you, your children, or what’s important to you will make that decision in your place. And the person the judge selects may be the last person you would have ever wanted to raise your children.
Estate planning also allows you to:
- Appoint someone who will be your children’s guardian if you and your children’s other parent become incapacitated but don’t die
- Dictate how your assets should be distributed rather than relying on the state’s statutory distribution scheme
- Make a gift to a charity, which would not be possible without a will
- Create a trust for your children so that people you choose, rather than a guardian selected by the court, can manage the assets in your estate
- Decide at what age your children will be mature enough to manage the assets you’ve left them, rather than having all assets distributed to them when they turn 18
- Appoint an agent who will make medical and financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated and cannot make them for yourself
- Decide who can have access to your protected medical information so that they may make informed medical decisions on your behalf
- Decide whether you want your life extended by artificial means if you are diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition
Usually, worrying about the task we’re dreading is more time consuming and unpleasant than just getting it done. That’s why many experts suggest we start our day by confronting the task we are dreading most.
Making estate planning decisions may be unpleasant, but they are essential to making sure your wishes are followed and your family is protected. And the process is not nearly as uncomfortable, expensive or time-consuming as you probably imagine it will be.
So quit worrying about it, and take the first steps right now. And the rest of your year will be wonderful.