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Estate-Planning: Why the First Step is the Hardest Step

BabyPlanningYou know you need a Will or Trust.  But you’ve been putting it off for too long to remember.  With a spouse, aging parents, children from a current or earlier marriage,  siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and maybe other family members to think about, you already know that the best way to provide for them is to plan how you would like to care for them after your passing. So why is it so hard to sit down and think about putting together your estate plan?

Thinking About the Future

If you are one of the millions of Americans procrastinating on putting together an estate plan, you are not alone. The truth is, planning your estate can be uncomfortable, distressing, and bring up reminders of growing old, retirement, and leaving our families behind – something that no one ever wants to think about!  Change is not easy to accept.  Further, in some cultures and religious faiths, it is even considered improper or inappropriate to have candid discussions about death and the distribution of one’s property.  As a result, may individuals simply avoid thinking about it, and taking the approach that whatever happens will happen, and that they trust their family to do the best they can under the circumstances.

The Problem with Procrastination

The approach above does not work, and in some cases, can result in devastating consequences. From our experience counseling hundreds of potential clients and clients on estate, will, trust, and probate matters, in the overwhelming majority of cases, estate problems are often caused by outsiders to the family, not family members.  Estate problems often occur with divorced families, step-children, boyfriends/girlfriends or spouses of family members that involve friction between certain family members. Consider the following real-life scenarios that we have encountered:

  • Changes made to a parent’s estate plan by a new spouse that cuts out any gifts to parent’s children from the first marriage
  • Undue influence on an elder parent by a caretaker or spouse
  • Creation of a “deathbed will” that complete changes parents’ wishes
  • In-marriage children refusing to share parent’s estate/assets with out-of-wedlock children
  • Raiding/ransacking of parents’ assets and property by siblings or siblings’ spouses/children
  • Spouse spending all of the person’s money and not giving any to the person’s children
  • Spouse’s new boyfriend/girlfriend pressuring/persuading “high burn rate” of person’s money, and none left for their children
  • Person’s home and assets not properly divided between all children as they wished

In all of these scenarios, ther was one constant: the person not making the will did not foresee the circumstances that arose during their later life or after their passing. They thought their family’s needs were or would be met, or that their wishes would be followed, and that they could trust those left in charge. But due to unforeseen circumstances, that did not happen… and as a result, that person’s family members were treated unfairly, against the person’s wishes. Those family members all shared one feeling: resent and upset at the fact that the person did not plan enough to ensure that their family members were treated fairly.
Life is unpredictable and there is no way to forsee every conceivable situation that can arise over the course of 10, 20, 30 or more years. With a little planning however, you can take steps to ensure that your loved ones are protected from being treated unfairly in the future.

The Right Approach

Most people who procrastinate on preparing an estate plan think of the process as “death-planning” or planning for their own demise, which can be intimidating, nerve-wracking, or too negative. This is not the right way to look at it. The right approach is to think of it in terms of planning to protect your loved ones in the event of an accident.  Most families buy car insurance, property insurance, and take other steps to protect themselves “in case of accidents.” Planning your estate should be no different. You are not planning for your own death – you are planning to make sure your loved ones are treated according to your wishes if an accident were to happen.

Making Tough Decisions

Another problem that individuals have is struggling to make a tough decisions, like choosing which child or family member should serve as one’s personal representative or guardian, or how to make end-of-life healthcare decisions. It may seem that these are big decisions, but the process does not need to seem daunting. We have popular estate plans available for individuals and couples seeking to plan for their children, parents, relatives, and other family members. Whether you are seeking a straightforward Will or a Trust that will minimize the time and expense of the probate process, AXIS can help.

Give us a call today to explore our affordable or flat-fee estate-planning options. The future doesn’t have to be scary. We’ll help you plan for it. AXIS Legal Counsel represents clients in numerous kind of probate matters, including wills and codicils, small estates, trusts, revocable trusts, living trusts, probate, estate-planning, probate administration, probate litigation, will contests, trust litigation, and numerous others. For information on retaining AXIS Legal Counsel to represent you with respect to any probate, wills, trusts, or estate matter, contact [email protected] or call (213) 403-0130 for a confidential consultation, or visit our Wills, Trusts, & Estate Practice Area, or Individual Rights Portal for more information


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