Many people find it challenging to get started with estate planning. From confusion about the process to denying that estate planning is necessary, there are various reasons why people do not want to create an estate plan.
That said, estate planning is an important objective to have for yourself and your loved ones, providing you with peace of mind during your lifetime and them following your death. So if you are having difficulty jump-starting the process, the following tips can help you stop procrastinating and get started on your estate planning today.
1. Set a deadline.
One helpful tool for combatting procrastination is to set a deadline. This does not have to be a deadline for when you will complete your estate planning entirely. In truth, you never finish your estate planning until you pass away — a good rule of thumb is to come back to your estate plan every three years to do a legal checkup, making modifications or additions if and when circumstances change.
But once you do get started on your estate planning, which can begin with you, very simply, committing to it, you can continue setting deadlines at various steps. For instance, setting a deadline for meeting with an estate planning attorney can help you move the ball along.
After meeting with an estate planning attorney, you can next set incremental deadlines for various tasks throughout the process, such as compiling documents, choosing the individuals to fill specific roles in your estate plan, and speaking with loved ones about your intentions. Each task can help make the process that much more approachable.
Estate planning can seem like an incredibly significant and daunting prospect. But by breaking it up into smaller sections via incremental deadlines, you can make it more manageable. You can also take satisfaction whenever you complete a portion of the process.
2. Create a list of your assets.
Creating a list of your assets can be a helpful tool for starting your estate planning. Unfortunately, people often feel they have too few or too many assets to list, causing them to procrastinate further. However, it can still help to list whatever assets you think you have in either situation. Here is why.
First, you may be unaware of certain items or valuables that could potentially count as an asset or may be relevant for estate planning purposes. Second, you can help prevent assets from being forgotten or lost by preparing a list. Third, by having a comprehensive list on hand, you can make your task of determining who will get what a more systematic process.
2. Come up with a system for staying organized.
In addition to listing your assets, your estate planning lawyer will ask you to produce additional information and make other important decisions. This in itself can cause overwhelm. That is unless you come up with a plan for staying organized.
Everyone’s mind works differently. Your organizational system may entail creating a general outline or a detailed to-do list. Either way, with a plan of attack, you can gain a better sense of how long the process will take and minizine confusion about what the process entails.
Both approaches can further alleviate stress and confusion. If you have a clear plan for what you need to do, you, in conjunction with your estate planning lawyer, can be more actionable in creating an estate plan that addresses your specific wishes and needs.
4. Consider what could happen if you put off estate planning further.
Considering what could happen if you do not create an estate plan can be a helpful catalyst for getting to work. For example, if you die without a will or intestate, your heirs will be subject to Washington state’s intestacy laws for distributing your assets.
In Washington, your assets would go to your closest relatives in a specific order — children first, if no children, then to parents, and if no children and parents, then to siblings, and so forth. However, this may not be what you would want to happen.
Estate planning encompasses more than just a will. Other documents in an estate plan can protect you should you become incapacitated during your lifetime. Consequently, there can arise significant confusion even while you are alive if you fail to communicate your wishes clearly.
By creating an estate plan that anticipates what could happen should the unexpected occur, you and your loved ones would not have to face making these crucial decisions while experiencing intense stress, important decisions that require thoughtful consideration when time may be a limiting factor. And that is if you even have the mental capacity to make such decisions.
Not having an estate plan can cause pain for your family and you and cost everyone significant time and money. Creating an estate plan now can alleviate some of these concerns for them in the future and provide you with peace of mind in the present.
5. Get hard conversations out of the way.
Many people do not want to think, let alone talk about issues such as death, illness, or money, especially with their loved ones. Making choices about the division of assets among your loved ones and what would happen to them after you die, for example, can feel stressful. But having these hard conversations early can help you move forward because an emotional part of the estate planning process is already over.
These conversations might be difficult, but it is better to have them than not. If, for example, you want to name a particular relative as a guardian for your minor child, you should discuss your intentions first to gain clarity about whether they are willing and able to assume such a role. Although you may believe someone is ready for the job, they may surprise you by explaining why they are not. Best to have this conversation while you can still figure out an alternative choice.
During the estate planning process, you can approach your decision-making with clarity by having these discussions. Another example: that heirloom piano you may want to pass on to your daughter may not be the gift you thought it would be. Better to find out now lest it winds up at auction. Further, letting your intentions be known can also potentially lessen the likelihood of family members being at odds with one another.
Hire a Seattle estate planning lawyer.
Estate planning does not have to be an overwhelming process. If you follow these easy tips, you can start estate planning with the right mindset, and rest assured your final wishes are known.
At Elise Buie Family Law, our estate planning team understands why you may have put off estate planning in the past and what we can do to make the estate planning process easier moving forward. Estate planning needs vary from person to person, and we look forward to discussing your issues with you. Call us today.