1st day of schoolFall has arrived!  As you pull out your fall decorations and help your kids with their homework, it is time that you did some very important homework of your own…your estate plan. For those of you who already have a plan in place, now is the time to pull out those documents and review them to make sure there have been no major life changes that might require your documents to be revised. For those of you who have yet to complete this very important homework, it’s time to get it done.  But don’t fret, you are not alone.  At my firm, the three most common reasons people tell me that they have delayed in planning for their future are:

1)      We can’t decide who to list as the guardian for our children.

2)      It is too expensive.

3)      I don’t want to think about something that won’t happen to me.

1. We can’t decide who to list as the guardian for our children.

I can relate to this. It is very hard to decide who will step in and take on the role of parenting your children if something were to ever happen to you and your spouse. Will they go to every sporting event the way I will, will they teach them manners, will they teach them my faith, will they be good role models, will they love my children?  I have to be honest, this is not an easy task and it made me really sad to think about. But, you know what makes me even sadder to think about? What if something happens to me and my spouse and we do not have an estate plan that names guardians? If that were to happen, the state of North Carolina (or South Carolina if you live in South Carolina) would decide who should be the guardian for my children. This means that every family member and friend can step forward and nominate themselves for the position of legal guardian for my children. A judge would then determine who should be given legal guardianship of my child based on what the judge believes is in the best interest of the child. So would you rather choose your Aunt Annie who might bake a few too many pies and might not make the kids say “thank you” as often as you would like, but will love your children, teach them morals and values and raise them to be good people; or would you rather leave a decision that will affect the rest of your child’s life to a judge who is doing his or her best to figure out what is best for your child? Bottom line, it is better for you to make these tough decisions now than to leave such an important issue in the hands of the court system.

2. It is too expensive.

An estate plan is an investment in not only your future, but in your children and family’s future. At Monk Law Firm, PLLC, an estate plan means a will or trust, durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney, living will, personal property memorandum and HIPAA authorization. These are the core documents that are necessary to protect not only yourself if you were to ever become incapacitated, but also your family. If you are in an accident that leaves you incapacitated and you do not have a health care or durable power of attorney in place, your family would have to go through an expensive and exhausting court process called guardianship in order to make decisions on your behalf. I cannot tell you how many times a client has come into our office with documents that they thought would protect them only to find out that the correct provisions were not included in their documents and we have to explain to them that the guardianship process is necessary. Yes. An estate plan is not cheap, but how much is a sense of security and wellbeing for your family worth?

To answer the question many of you are thinking, “yes”, there are inexpensive companies and computer programs that spit out generic estate plans after entering some basic information, but every plan is not and should not be the same. Your estate plan should be drafted with you and your family’s needs in mind. You should sit down with an attorney who practices in the area of estate planning and can guide you through the process of creating an estate plan. My first question at an initial appointment is: “What are your goals?” For most people, their goals include protecting my family, preserving the legacy that I have spent a lifetime creating, making sure their children are taken care of and/or not putting a burden on anyone when I pass away. Whatever your goals are, do not sell yourself short by either not creating an estate plan or creating an estate plan that does not fully protect you because you do not want to invest in your family’s protection.

3. I don’t want to think about something that won’t happen to me.

“I am young! Nothing is going to happen to me. I have years before I need a will.” As a lawyer, my response to these statements is “I am a lawyer, it is my job to think of everything that COULD happen and protect you against those events.” As a mother, my response is, “What if you are wrong? What if something does happen to you? You have a duty to protect your children.” Nobody ever thinks that their husband is going to pass away from colon cancer in a matter of weeks and leave behind three young children, but it happened to a neighbor recently. If he did not have a will in place, his wife would be left with the duty of probating his will while also mourning the loss of a husband, father and friend. No. Mortality is not fun to think about, but putting your head in the sand and refusing to think about it is not fair to your family and children. Sit down, spend some time thinking about your estate plan and you are done. I promise, once you bite the bullet and tackle the uncomfortable thought of mortality, you will feel better about the “what if’s” knowing that you have protected your family.

So whether it’s indecision, money, or fear of mortality, don’t let anything keep you from protecting what matters most.