4 Fear-Based Reasons Estate Planning is Avoided

September 28, 2010

Today, we discuss certain fears that lead people away from doing any estate planning.  Our typical response to fear is a “fight or flight” response.  The “flight” response has many colorful names, such as avoidance, escaping, and shutting down.

Regarding whether you should initiate estate planning, fear can also come in the form of four common responses listed below.  We’ll follow these with several counterpoints that may help convince you to get started anyway.

Rock and a Hard Place – Some avoid estate planning because it forces decision-making in matters where none of the available options are appealing.  For example, if a couple has two minor children, the process requires a decision as to who will take care of the kids if the parents die simultaneously, and the options include, say, the elderly, an irresponsible childless relative or a non-family member.  The fear is that a wrong choice could negatively affect their family, potentially for generations.

Too Overwhelming – This objection relates to the level of difficulty and the sheer number of decisions that need to be made to get your final wishes in order.  It can also relate to avoiding your own messy desk, having to make many calls to obtain information, discovering or facing other unfinished tasks, etc.  The fear is of facing great hassle and responsibility when death or disability is not necessarily imminent.

Too Busy Now, I’ll Get To It Later – This turns the fear on its ear.  The idea is that everyday concerns such as running a business and/or household need to get done, and preparing a will and other documents will merely be an escape from daily work.  However, is this not a distraction to a distraction?   People get so involved in day-to-day activities, that they cannot find the time to do things that have great long-term importance (like estate and financial planning, exercising, etc.).

Not the Right Time – A close friend recently posited that people are mainly concerned about their own estate planning when 1) they first have kids; 2) a close relative or friend dies; or 3) they discover they have a terminal illness.  If true, then people are waiting until a stressful period of their lives to plan.  Estate planning is then naturally viewed as a stressful event itself, and most of us try to avoid stress.

The following are brief, and hopefully helpful, responses to these listed concerns:

  • All adults need some estate planning.  You never know when something will happen.

  • Avoiding it will create unnecessary administrative work and potentially unintended results (such as children becoming wards of the state).

  • It will most likely cost less than one year of homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.

  • The process need not be stressful at all, and in most cases won’t take you very much time.  Preparing now will also help you avoid additional stress later on.

  • Your attorney can present you with options you may not have considered.

  • Many feel great relief after taking care of their estate plan.

  • Most of what is drafted will not be irreversible.  Revising is usually not very costly or time consuming.

  • You can easily have your lawyer maintain contact with you after you sign your documents, in case life or mind changes occur.  See this prior post for related newer estate planning services.

  • Do not be pressured into getting started.  Work on your estate plan when you are ready, but do keep in mind of the risks in delaying.

 4 Fear Based Reasons Estate Planning is Avoided


Scott R. Zucker, Esq. is the owner of The Zucker Law Firm PLLC, located just outside the Capital Beltway in Annandale, within five miles of the City of Fairfax, the county seat of beautiful Fairfax County, Virginia. The firm focuses mainly on estate planning services for Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania clientele, and seeks to do so in an affordable and approachable way. People interested in learning more can contact Scott by phone or email.

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