Honestly, I know you have good reasons for not making an estate plan. Some reasons raise legitimate questions of strategy and importance. Let me give you the answers you need to take action.
I’ve heard plenty of excuses over 30 years as an estate lawyer. Procrastinating tops the list. I’ve prepared a list of excuses that may ring a bell with you. But I have gone a step further. I’ve countered each excuse with tips to help you.
Look at this list and check off how many of these excuses you have used.
Excuse 1. I don’t know how to get started to make an estate plan.
“What is an estate plan after all? How much is it going to cost me? Where am I to go to begin? Is it really necessary to see a lawyer?”
Answer: It does not matter how you start. Everyone needs a basic plan. You need a will and powers of attorney. These will protect your family and money. Start with creating these documents as your first goal. Then you can adapt and build from that foundation.
Making a will is simple. The government has a will for you if you fail to make your own. The government rules are inflexible. You can find your brother, who you haven’t spoken to in years, gets everything. Is that your choice? Is that where your life savings should go?
Do you want to decide who gets your money and when? Make a will.
You can put the right person in control of your money. You get to name your executor when you make your will.
Excuse 2. I don’t know the best way to give all my stuff away.
“I expect to spend all my money before I go. Why should I bother making a plan? My family gets along. Everyone should just be able to work things out without me.”
Answer: Once you are out of the picture all bets are off. Family members can stop talking to one another when they fight over the contents of your home. Who is to get the piano, mom’s rings or dad’s medals?
You do estate planning for the people you leave behind. They need your instructions to be set out in your will.
Excuse 3. I don’t have a clue how to reduce taxes.
“The whole tax idea is too hard for me to figure out. There are probate taxes, income taxes and more. I don’t want to see an accountant to figure this all out.”
Answer: It is true. Your largest tax bill is due when you die. It only makes sense to try to lower that bill if you can. A good estate lawyer can explain the best ways to save taxes. This is part of any estate plan.
You can make sure you pay less in taxes. You then leave more of your money for people and charities. I’ll continue this in the next post.
Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, and C.S.) is an Ontario lawyer, nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto based Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of seven estate books. © 2013