Important But Not Urgent: The Perpetual Estate Planning Problem

A 2015 survey by CNBC showed that 38% of individuals with investable assets over $1 million or more have not consulted with an estate planning attorney to establish and estate plan.

Among individuals with $1 million to $5 million that number held steady at 39%.

Among individuals with $5 million or more, the number decreased slightly to 32%.

To put this another way, nearly 4 in 10 people with significant assets don’t have any plan in place to make sure those assets are distributed in an organized manner when they die.

This may not seem like a big deal, but this also means there are no plans to pass on any legacy from generation to generation.

There are likely no statements of tradition, of history, of values, of culture.

The next generation is left to fend for itself without the benefit of the experience of family members who have come before them.

Why Don’t People Create Estate Plans?

There are a ton of reasons typically cited for why people avoid estate planning. Here are a few:

  • They don’t want to think about death;
  • They’re too busy;
  • They believe their estate is not large enough to require an estate plan;
  • They’re unsure over elements of their plan, such as how to distribute assets or who should be named a guardian for children;
  • They have life insurance and expect to receive an inheritance, so they believe no further planning is necessary;
  • They believe an estate plan is expensive, complicated, and must include complex elements, such as multiple trusts;

But I think that’s getting too technical. I think the reason is pretty simple.

Estate planning is an important but not urgent matter.

It is one of those things that’s is easy to overlook, to fall through the cracks, to fall prey to more urgent matters, whether they be important or not.

What’s the Solution to Important but Not Urgent Estate Planning?

The general solution is simple – remove barriers to entry.

But in the real world this is easier said than done. We can’t control everything in our lives, and when things pop up they need to be taken care of.

Here are a few of the things I’ve done to make my estate planning clients more likely to follow through with their plans:

  • Streamline the process as much as possible;
  • Automate the process as much as possible;
  • Utilize technology to make responsiveness easy;
  • Keep prices economical to encourage action;
  • Adopt a building block approach to estate planning, adding a little bit to the plan over time, as is needed; and
  • Relentless follow up.
    • I am in the business for one reason – I want to be responsible for the transfer of wealth, values, traditions, and cultures for 1 million families before I leave this earth. To do that I’m eliminating everything that stands in the way of my clients creating the estate plan they need.

      What is your excuse for not creating an estate plan? Tell me in the comments.


      Christopher Small

      P.S. Do you have kids? Have you completed guardianship paperwork? Have you done it correctly? Click here to find out what happens if you don’t do anything: Are you okay with a judge choosing the guardians of your children?

      P.P.S. Do you own a business? Do you have a plan so the business, and your family, can survive if something happens to you? If not, click here to learn how simple it is to protect your business and your family from tragedy: 5 Ways to Protect Your Business from Catastrophic Failure.

      P.P.P.S. Do you have no kids and think you don’t need an estate plan? Single and think a will is only for married couples. You couldn’t be more wrong. Click here to learn more: 5 reasons estate planning is a must have even if you don’t have kids.

      Christopher Small is a Kirkland estate planning attorney who helps people get rich and live forever. He is also the owner of CMS Law Firm LLC.