Everyone needs an estate plan, but most people do not have one. If this is surprising to you, you may be ahead of the game. Only about 1/3 of Americans have already made an estate plan. The other 2/3 are either not expecting to make one at all or are perhaps planning to do so later in life.
This procrastination can be problematic. A person could unexpectedly pass away without making any plan for their family. Why is it that people put off estate planning, rather than doing it immediately?
They don’t think they’re old enough
People sometimes think that they are too young for estate planning. They assume they need to wait until they are beyond middle-age or perhaps retired from their job – at around 65. But the truth is that there are many estate planning tools that are helpful at a variety of ages. New parents in their 30s can pick a potential guardian for their child, for example. And adults in their late teens and early 20s can make their wishes known in the event that they’re unexpectedly injured in a car wreck, for example, and are suddenly unable to advocate on behalf of themselves.
They don’t think they have enough assets
People will also sometimes get caught up in thinking about the specific assets that they own. They assume that they don’t need an estate plan because they are “just for rich families with complex assets.” But even for those who are not wealthy, estate planning offers a lot of tools for making medical decisions, avoiding estate disputes and safeguarding the interests of those left behind.
They are not sure where to begin
For many people, it is clear that estate planning would be beneficial and they fully expect to make a plan at some point. The process just seems complicated and they’re not sure where to begin. There certainly can be a lot of complex paperwork involved in creating an estate plan that will be effective. But it is often best to start with something relatively simple, like a will, and then an individual can expand their plan over time with documents like a medical power of attorney, a financial power of attorney or another type of advance directive.
At the end of the day, procrastinating estate planning for any reason is quite risky. Those who don’t have a plan yet need to know exactly what legal steps they can take to get one in place. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to begin.