last will and testament

7 Reasons People Delay Estate Planning

7 Reasons People Delay Estate Planning

According to a survey conducted earlier in 2019, only 40% of American adults have a Will or Trust. That percentage drops dramatically for younger age groups. For example, only 19% of people ages 18-34 have a Will or Trust.

So what’s the big deal?

As Baby Boomers pass away, experts predict that over $68 trillion (with a ‘trill’) in wealth will be transferred over the next 25 years. And the estate planning of those Boomers will control where all that wealth goes.

Despite the hugeness of those numbers and the importance of estate planning, it is easy to procrastinate when it comes to actually setting your affairs in order. Here are the top 7 reasons (in no particular order) people give us to explain why they delay estate planning:

1. “I’m too young.”

First of all, you are never too young to have an estate plan. I wrote a series of articles specifically geared toward estate planning for Millennials. (Or you can substitute “Millennials” for “Gen Z” or whatever weird thing we are on now.)

Whenever young people say “I don’t have enough assets for an estate plan” or “I’m going to wait until I have a family,” what they are really saying is, “I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.” Because young people don’t die, they live forever.

Do I Need to Amend My Will or Trust?

Do I Need to Amend My Will or Trust?

When I was a kid, I really wanted a remote-controlled hovercraft.

I thought it looks awesome. I mean, just the idea of a flying remote-controlled car was amazing. So I saved up my money and bought one. Can you guess what happened next?

If you said, “I used it a few times and then never touched it again,” then you would be correct. The thing took like 37 hours to charge and you could only use it for two minutes until you had to charge it again.

I was really upset about it at the time. I kept thinking, “If only I could exchange this toy for another!” Unfortunately for me, Toys “R” Us hates children and refused to give me my money back. And that’s why I became a lawyer. For justice.

Here’s the good news: there is no Toy “R” Us return policy for your estate planning documents. You can update them, change, exchange, or revoke them entirely as long as you are alive and competent (with a few exceptions).

When should I amend my Will or Trust?

Some attorneys may try to convince you that your Will or Trust needs to be amended whenever you go through any significant life change. Buy a new house? Amend your Trust. Have a grandchild? Amend your Will. Finish binge watching Friends? Amend, amend, amend.

What's on Your Estate Planning “Bucket List”

What's on Your Estate Planning “Bucket List”

Everybody knows what a “bucket list” is, right?

It’s a list (duh) of things you want to do before you die (i.e. “kick the bucket”). I won’t get into the weeds about the concept, so if you want to learn more about bucket lists and also ugly-cry through two boxes of Kleenex, watch the 2007 film The Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.

But back to the blog.

Just as you and Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson have a bucket list for life, you should also have a bucket list for estate planning. Ask yourself: What do I need to do to arrange my affairs before I die?

Estate planning is about more than just legal documents. A good plan means accounting for your assets and providing the information, documents, and knowledge necessary to ensure a smooth transfer of those assets to the people you want to have them.

To help you create your own estate planning bucket list, here are 10 tips you can use to organize your estate before you die:

1. Get a Will or Trust.

Of course the first item on the bucket list is to create an actual estate plan. I’m an estate planning attorney writing on an estate planning blog. What did you expect?

Formal estate planning documents such as a Last Will and Testament or a Living Trust are crucial to make the administration of your estate as easy as possible. Without them, your estate could be tied up in messy probate — in some cases for years.

Estate Planning for Young Professionals

Estate Planning for Young Professionals

If you are a young professional, estate planning is probably not even on your radar.

And why on earth should you have to think about it?

You’re young.

You don’t have many assets.

You’re single (and your grandma keeps reminding you about it).

Your family knows what you want.

You have other things to worry about.

You’re going to live forever.

However, estate planning is just as important (if not more important) for single young professionals as for older, wealthier, married-ier individuals.

But how do you create an estate plan? Where should you start? It’s a big question. Lucky for you, we have already done the heavy lifting. Here are 4 quick estate planning tips for young professionals:

1. Get a Durable Power of Attorney

In short, a Durable Power of Attorney is an estate planning document that gives someone (your “Attorney-in-Fact”) the ability to act for you in certain financial and/or medical situations.

“Why is this useful?” you may be yell-asking at your computer screen. And that’s a great question.

Our Most Popular Estate Planning Blog Posts of 2018

Our Most Popular Estate Planning Blog Posts of 2018

The end of the year is always a great time to reflect on life and to commit yourself to improvement in the year to come. (And to create some awesome estate planning New Year’s resolutions!)

We recently wrote about the importance of using this time to review your estate plan. But estate planning is a big and often complicated topic. To help you think about estate planning and the issues you may face in the future, here are our posts from 2018 that readers found the most useful:

1. What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

Wills and Trusts are two of the most common (and most well-known) estate planning documents. But what are the differences between them? What are their relative advantages and disadvantages? In our most popular post of the year, we explain the differences (and similarities) between a last will and testament and a living trust.

2. 4 Tips to Identify Undue Influence

In Oklahoma, undue influence consists of taking an unfair advantage of another's weakness of mind or body or the use of authority to procure an unfair advantage over someone. This post explains how undue influence can occur in estate planning and how you can identify and avoid it.

11 Estate Planning New Year's Resolutions

11 Estate Planning New Year's Resolutions

There’s nothing quite like the new year to make you think of fresh possibilities and new beginnings.

There’s also nothing quite like way too much turkey, wine, and football over the holidays to make you realize that you should maybe consider some lifestyle changes.

You have probably already started on your list of new year’s resolutions for 2019: read more, get a gym membership (and actually use it this time), spend more time with family, etc. And those are great resolutions. “New year, new me” and all that jazz.

But there is one more goal you should add to your list: organize your estate plan.

While most resolutions are about helping your self, an estate plan is about helping your loved ones. To make it easier for you to set your affairs in order, we created this handy list of 11 Estate Planning Resolutions for 2019:

1. Execute a Trust and/or a Will

You, like a majority of Americans, may not have a living trust or a last will and testament. You may not even know what those documents are. Which one is better? Which one is right for you? What are the differences between a will and a trust?

Both a trust and a will control what happens to your estate — your property, your “stuff” — after your death. However, there is one huge difference between the two: a trust avoids probate, while a will does not.

Yes, even if you have a will, your estate must still go through probate after your death.

Remember that there are two main sides to estate planning: (1) What happens to your “stuff” when you die and (2) who takes care of your self when you become incapacitated. You can solve the first part of that equation in 2019 by creating a trust or a will.

Get Our FREE 2018 Estate Planning Checklist

Get Our FREE 2018 Estate Planning Checklist

Prepare yourself to be shocked: 2018 is almost over.

If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to a few weeks of Christmas carols, football, family, bowl games, presents, and (best of all) football.

This is also a great time to look back on the year that was:

Perhaps you started a new job or got a raise; maybe you made an addition (by birth or marriage) or subtraction (by death or divorce) to the family; or maybe you purchased a house, received a windfall inheritance, or started a new business.

Life can change a lot in a year.

But do those life changes mean you need to make changes to your estate plan?

To help you answer that question, we have put together a 10-question checklist to review your estate plan.

What is a Last Will and Testament?

What is a Last Will and Testament?

Remember that scene in The Matrix where Morpheus offers Neo a red pill or a blue pill?

Morpheus (a Yoda-like figure) tells Neo (the Luke Skywalker of the movie, as it were) that the reality he had been living in was a lie. (I like Star Wars a lot.)

He then offers Neo two pills — one red, one blue — and tells him that if he takes the blue pill, he will wake up tomorrow and go on with life as usual. But if he takes the red pill, he will “wake up” (both literally and figuratively) and learn just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

The catch? If Neo takes the red pill, he can never go back to the way things were. You can’t close Pandora’s Box once it has been opened.

Needless to say, Neo takes the red pill and proceeds to become the Chosen One and kill robots for three movies. It’s great.

I often think of that scene when someone asks me a question about estate planning. Because that rabbit hole is pretty deep, folks. And I’m an attorney, so there’s always a chance you won’t be able to shut that Pandora’s Box.

But for you, I’ll do my best to keep things short and sweet.

In my last blog post, I talked about trusts: what they are, what they do, why you should have one. I also spent some time discussing how trusts are different than wills. So now, given that comparison, it only seems fair that I talk about wills.

What is a Trust?

What is a Trust?

Life is super confusing.

We literally get dumped into this big world full of complicated things like taxes and etiquette and lawn care, and we’re just supposed to know exactly what to do?

My adulthood has been a constant stream of realizing that I misunderstood basic concepts about life that everyone else apparently already knew. Actually that was my childhood, too. So it’s been my whole life. For example:

When I was younger, there was a good stretch of time when I thought “Watergate” was just another word for a dam. Like, a literal gate for water. A water gate.

But whenever I heard people use “Watergate” in conversation, I got this impression that it was not a good thing. As a result, for a few while I assumed that dams were somehow really bad things but had no idea why.

I eventually figured out what Watergate really was; however, that was by no means the last time I misunderstood something. Learning is great and also sometimes embarrassing.

Many people have similar misunderstandings about estate planning. For instance, clients often think their modest assets do not warrant a living trust. After all, aren’t “trust fund babies” supposed to be wealthy? Isn’t a will good enough for me?

Approximately 1 of every 2 clients I talk to doesn’t know exactly what a trust does or how it is different than a will. That is a mostly made up statistic based on the last few client meetings I could remember off the top of my head. I’m not saying it’s not true. I just don’t have the hard data…

But here is a very real statistic: only 42% of U.S. adults currently have a will or a trust. That’s crazy! Part of that is due to the fact that wills and trusts are complex, hard-to-understand documents. And attorneys usually don’t make it much easier.

That’s why I thought I would take the time to explain just what the heck a trust really is.

What is "funding" my trust and how do I do it?

What is "funding" my trust and how do I do it?

So you’ve created a living trust. Awesome. You are super responsible. Spectacular. Your estate is so planned. Excellent.

Reveling in your excellence, you may be thinking to yourself, “You did a great job, Self. You are so responsible, and your estate plan (which is very much planned) is good to go!”

But guess what? Yourself would be wrong.

Is my trust useless?

When you sign a trust document, you just have some sheets of paper. It may be fancy paper — and it’s definitely expensive paper — but it’s still just paper. And paper alone (usually) does not avoid probate. In other words: By itself, a signed trust can be pretty useless.

Think of a trust like a box. When you sign the trust, you have an empty box. To avoid probate, you want to fill that box with all your “stuff,” your assets. Anything that’s in the box at your death doesn’t have to go through probate. Anything that’s not in the box at your death does.