As my estate planning practice continues to grow, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many different types of people. My clients come to me at various stages of life, with a diverse range of assets, family situations, health issues, and histories. Despite these differences, I’ve noticed a common theme among my clients: many of them tell me they’ve waited way too long to complete their estate plan, and, after we’ve signed their documents, they tell me they feel as though a weight has been lifted off of their shoulders.
The process of estate planning, on the surface, is relatively simple. The goal of the process is to answer two questions: (1) Where do you want your belongings to go? and (2) Who do you want to manage your affairs after you’re gone?
I think one of the reasons people wait so long to complete their estate plan is because underneath these two seemingly simple questions are many more, and arguably, much harder ideas to grapple with:
I’m too young to think about estate planning.
What is really going to happen to my children if something happens to me?
What if I never repair my relationship with…?
I’m not ready to die.
Have I accomplished what I want to with my life?
What if I have nothing left to leave my loved ones?
How will I be remembered?
I believe estate planning to be more than just putting together a packet of documents and sending my clients on their way. Estate planning is also the process of learning someone’s story and the why behind someone’s desire to plan. The process of estate planning, to some extent, requires us to directly confront our fears about our own mortality, and that, in and of itself, can be reason enough for many of us to delay executing our estate plans.
Instead of viewing estate planning as a morbid task that we only think about after a triggering event such as the death of a loved one, I encourage you to consider your estate plan as the epilogue to your life story. “Epilogue” or “epilog” comes from the Greek ἐπίλογος epílogos ("conclusion"), from ἐπί epi ("in addition"), and λόγος logos ("word"), and means “a piece of writing at the end of a work of literature, usually used to bring closure to the work from the perspective of within the story.”
No one else will ever be able to tell your story from your perspective. And while it’s impossible to compile the many chapters of our lives into a complete story conducive to a neat stack of documents, your estate plan should allow you to both give instruction as to your wishes and convey a sense of your values, while ultimately helping to provide a sense of closure at such time as your story comes to an end.
Who better to convey those words than you?
Alyssa K. Jerde is an attorney with Ward & Oehler, Ltd. Alyssa works with a variety of clients in crafting meaningful estate plans as well in the areas of real estate, probate, and business law.
Interested in meeting with an attorney to begin your estate plan? Call the office at (507) 288-5567 or schedule an appointment online at www.wardoehler.com/book-online.
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