Why wait until the holidays to plan your estate?

Posted by on Nov 12, 2013

The holidays are coming and that tends to mean it’s “estate planning season.” Nothing official, just a trend I’ve noticed. I usually get more calls this time of year, and I have a few hypotheses about why. Here they are, not in any particular order.

1. Many people start the year with an intention and a resolution to take care of their financial affairs, including estate planning. A lot of these folks call around January 2nd to get started. Others put estate planning on their to-do lists and months and months go by. By November, it’s apparent that the to-do has not yet happened. And so, there is a rush by some people to try to make it happen before the end of the year.

2. Some people have legal insurance plans that allot them X number hours of service per year and they want to make sure to use up those hours.

3. This is a season of family gatherings. Everyone’s talking about what happened to Aunt Martha: she died without a trust and now her estate’s in probate and it’s a royal mess. Or, Uncle Bob has just been diagnosed with cancer and fortunately he does have an estate plan. “Gee, I guess we’d better do one, too.” Family gatherings are good reminders about relatives and friends we love—and don’t love!—and about the quick passing of time. Everyone’s getting older.

4. Winter gets cold and gloomy, and despite all the hub-hub with shopping and cooking and eating, it’s psychologically a time to go within. Whether people are conscious or not, the long dark days remind us of our own mortality. Many of the calls I receive around the time of the solstice are from people very stressed out about the fact that they have no estate plan. There’s no apparent reason. They just are. And because it’s winter, when much of nature goes dormant or below ground, that’s not surprising.

And yet, there are at least as many reasons why people, with all good intentions, will not do an estate plan. Many can’t afford it. Many don’t understand it. Some people have family dynamics that are so complicated and painful that decision-making is hard. Of course, many people simply hate lawyers and legalese, and probably at least as many hate paperwork of any kind.

There are more reasons than not why people don’t make an estate plan, and yet the reasons to cut through the inertia and just do it are well known to this readership.

Be part of the responsible minority who takes care of business and creates a thorough, valid estate plan.

Then put it on the shelf and go enjoy the holiday season.