An unmarried attorney once said to me (about refusing to create an estate plan), “What do I care about my property when I die. I will be dead!” Perhaps, he has a point. Is there really any personal benefit from planning your estate? Creating a plan to deal with your incapacity and your death seems to be a more of a benefit for your family than for you. Again, begging the question, “If I plan my estate, what’s in it for me?”
Before my husband Mike and I created our estate plan I thought the main benefit to an estate plan was piece of mind — your affairs are organized for your family/friends to handle. And really, that should be enough. We are all adults and we should not have to be rewarded to take responsibility for our lives.
However, taking responsibility for our lives was not enough incentive for Mike and me. We went decades without an estate plan. We spent numerous hours on the internet and watching countless basketball games. We spent plenty of money on Starbucks, I-phones and dinners out. Yet, we could not string together a few hours and spend the fee to create an estate plan?
Unfortunately, it took Mike’s heart attack to spring us into action to create our estate plan. Now that we have planned our estate, I have come to realize that there really is something “in it for me.” Planning our estate gave me the opportunity to contemplate life and create a better sense of personal connection.
Sounds kind of corny, right? The point of estate planning is to think about one’s death. So, when Mike and I started drafting our estate plan, I figured it would be depressing and even a little frightening at times. Surprisingly, I found the opposite to be true. Creating our estate plan was energizing, motivating and satisfying.
Although Mike and I had to make provisions for our possible untimely death, that scenario was not my focus. Rather, my attention was drawn to the fact that our deaths are likely still decades away. Which means that WE STILL HAVE A WHOLE LOT OF LIFE LEFT TO LIVE!!
Post estate plan I am focused on not wasting a minute! Of course, I did not need to create an estate plan to appreciate life. But there is something about inventorying your assets, assigning recipients and incorporating it all in a legal document that creates a profound impact. Contemplating and evaluating your life while you still have the time and energy to enjoy it (or change it) is incredibly motivating and worth the effort it takes to draft an estate plan.
In addition to life contemplation, drafting my estate plan also created a unexpected feeling of personal connection. Mike and I had to choose a person to act as our trustee. In making that decision I recognized that we are not invincible. We may someday lose our independence and need someone’s help. Surprisingly, recognizing this vulnerability was not upsetting.
Instead, I felt comfort knowing that there is now a person (actually four people – our kids) who have agreed to step up if we cannot take care of ourselves. Acknowledging that you need other people is a big step toward feeling more connected. Plus, knowing that a person (or four people) legally agree to be available for you when you need them makes that personal connection even stronger.
Estate planning is something in life we should all do to be good family members and perhaps, even good citizens. Today, in a society where loneliness is on the rise and people are longing for more personal connection, it is nice to know we can feel energized and personally connected by just living up to our responsibilities. If you plan your estate, there is something in it for you!
If I have persuaded you and made my case please contact me or another trustworthy attorney to draft your estate plan.