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And the Survey Says… Estate Planning is Confusing

I’m always amazed to read how 60-70% of US families have outdated estate planning, and I wonder how can that be? Are lawyers really that poor of motivators? Do we lawyers really scare away that many prospects? I’m lucky enough to be part of WealthCounsel, a focused group of wealth planning advisors across the United States, and one of our recent surveys provided a key reason for these disappointing results — 74% of those surveyed consider estate planning to be a confusing topic. Wow! Approximately 3/4 of the people surveyed are confused about estate planning. This finding, as well as other results from the survey of “What Do Americans Think About Estate Planning?” was a good reminder of how much education work we need to do as advisors. This survey is available on our website if you’d like to download it. There’s some fascinating data in it.

Reduce the Confusion By Organizing Your Estate Plan

So, let’s attempt to reduce some of the confusion. Practically speaking, what documents or information should really be included with your estate plan? Certainly there are plenty of papers, neatly-organized documents and other financial information that make up your estate plan, but what else should you add to those things so that when the time comes, your family knows exactly what to do and who to contact as they administer your trust or estate?

We would recommend (if you haven’t already) creating a folder labeled “Estate Plan,” and then make sure the following are gathered into one place in that folder:

Core Estate Planning Documents:

  • Revocable Living Trust(s)
  • A copy of a Will, or Pour-Over Will, even if you have a revocable living trust
  • Other beneficiary trusts and asset protection trusts, where appropriate
  • Certificates and Affidavits of Trust
  • Assignment of Property and Businesses to a Trust
  • Powers of Attorney (financial and healthcare)
  • Other Healthcare documents like a HIPAA authorization and a Living Will
  • Funding Summary of Assets – showing how these assets are owned and/or the beneficiaries on the respective assets, and how these assets connect to the Revocable Living Trust
  • Personal Property Distribution Summary – a list of sentimental items and any designated recipients

Financial and Other Information to be Gathered or Written Down

  • Name and contact information for the attorney who assisted in the creation of your estate plan.
  • Name and contact information of financial advisors, CPAs, insurance professionals or other key advisors who helped with your estate plan.
  • Who has a more detailed summary of the assets owned? Who should be contacted on these assets and how is the asset connected with the overall estate plan?
  • Where are old tax returns and other IRS filing information?
  • Where are the life insurance policies and other insurance policies?
  • What deeds or vehicle titles are available for the real estate and vehicles owned? Does a mortgage exist on the real estate or are there loans on the vehicles?
  • What digital assets should be included? How are passwords, alarm information, mailboxes, social media accounts and other security information managed?
  • What passwords need to be shut down upon your passing or mental capacity?
  • Are there any funeral/memorial/cremation instructions, and who is familiar with these plans?
  • Is there a safety-deposit box, or other locked boxes, for belongings? Who has the key?
  • Are there any other family legacy items, and who is the keeper of these legacies?

Yes, all of the above can seem overwhelming, and when reviewed as a whole it can be intimidating for most of us to pull together. However, if it is this challenging for you while you are living, imagine the confusion and frustration your loved ones will face if you have no estate plan and they have to sort it all out without you! ​Is that the inheritance and memory you want to leave to your loved ones?

“I don’t want to leave a mess for my family.”

One of the most common reasons we hear for completing estate planning is — “I don’t want to leave a mess for my family.” And in the WealthCounsel survey mentioned above, 71% of respondents said that completing their estate plan makes them feel like a better spouse or parent. We hear support of this sentiment all the time. Clients tell us about the peace of mind they receive by knowing their loved ones will not have to endure a difficult estate transition upon their passing. It is a very real and compelling reason for completing your estate planning and keeping it organized. None of us know when our time on this earth will end. As we often say, we provide peace of mind as we help you pass your legacy to the next generation.

At The Bell Law Firm, we are trying to make a positive difference in our clients’ lives. This is still a key reason I’m personally in this business versus chasing another corporate dream with all its financial, travel and material rewards. If estate planning is on your to-do list, contact us for your no-cost consultation, and we’ll discuss next steps to make this happen for you. It really isn’t that complicated to complete an estate plan when you work with a focused, proven system, with resources dedicated to meeting your goals. And, believe it or not, we still find ways to make the process fun and enjoyable. Your family and loved ones will also be forever thankful to you. Give us a call at 913-345-2323. We are happy to help.