Stagnation -- a word used to define a process that has slowed or stopped. Often associated with economic analysis, it can be applied to describe the process of too many people's efforts to create an estate plan. In fact, a former client used it today when calling to schedule an appoint for a parent who is ailing. The will is from 1965 and nominates a bank as personal representative. The bank is defunct and the back-ups, sisters of testator, long dead. It is obvious to all involved that a real mess is brewing, but yet no action is taken. Why?
Information overload can be blamed. We live in the information age, and information is great. But it can also be vast and endless. Attempting to inform oneself before going to see an attorney for that first meeting puts you at risk of never going. There is always one more book to read, article to underline, or video to watch.
Too many options are dizzying. Should I go with a trust? What about a basic will? Or a will with a trust? Oh, what's this a transfer on death deed - might that be better? Options are wonderful, and we are fortunate to have some many selections to choose from. But how many of us sometimes need to waiter to force us to make a decision when at a restaurant. If you are decisive, great! If not, you risk analysis paralysis and will never have a plan completed.
What is the solution? My recommendation is to focus on one word, control. When creating or updating an estate plan you are taking control of the situation. If you do not act, then courts and others will make decisions, because death is something that will eventually knock on everyone's door. We do not know when, or how, but we know it will one day arrive. They only thing you can do is take control, put those wishes on paper, and remember you can do pretty much whatever you desire as long as it does not violate public policy (i.e. I leave my estate to my son, but only if he divorces his wife).
Image by M. Gustafson Gervasi, 2013 -- waves crashing on beach in Bayfield, Wis., - Lake Superior.