Being a middle-aged man with a family, my wife and I have been reviewing our estate plans with the intention of revising them. 15 years ago, our attorney-led us through a relatively simple process. This time, I am searching for an app to help me manage the process. An app that will give us what we need to do if we plug in answers to a few multiple choice questions. Unfortunately, this app does not exist and I was stuck for a while trying to find out the status of our plans. In lieu a magical app, I have found the following helped me to break the cycle of procrastination in estate planning:
- Review and Assemble Current Documents – This may seem simple but this can be complex with wills, trusts, retirement plans and life insurance. Make sure you know where everything is and what is in it. A good summary can be found on RetiredBrains.com.
- Take a Current Inventory of All Assets – Simply put, in the worst case scenario, it is important to let people know where things are. The inventory should also be a part of your documents. RetiredBrains.com also has a great checklist for items to include.
- Think of The Important People – We live our lives with and, in many ways, for our loved ones. If you look at the wallpaper of my smartphone, you will see a picture of my loved ones. I’m sure your loved ones occupy similar spaces and you may want them to occupy similar spaces in your estate plans.
- Think of The Values You Want to Pass On—We donate money or volunteer our time to support causes that give life meaning. We spend our lives trying to share the values that define us. Consider the impact an estate plan can have on the future of the charities in which you are involved. Many charities have simple language on their websites on how to include them in your plan (our language is here).
- Set a Deadline — Whether it is the end of summer, a fall getaway, or a birthday, it is imperative to set a deadline. It will help us to make progress and take affirmative steps to work through the important details. And when procrastination sets in, it can serve as a catalyst to strive past it.
Our smartphones can teach us about the estate planning process. Many times the estate planning process feels like a math problem (and that is why it seems that someone should have made an app to help us through the process). Once we think about the big picture, it is easy to see how a successful estate plan can transition assets to benefit the future of those you love the most and the causes that define us. Most of us have a lot of control over how we use our phones to manage our lives. It can be a very beneficial tool. The more I use it, the better it can serve me. However, if I don’t use it to its absolute fullest, it may ring or buzz at any time…and I may not be as prepared to handle it as I could have been. That’s a bit like an estate plan, it’s more beneficial if you manage it well. So put the above steps in your reminders or put a deadline on your calendar and make sure your plans serve you well.