Just Do It – Ending Estate Planning Procrastination

There are many things in life we need to do but often struggle to complete.  It’s not that these things aren’t important – life just gets in the way sometimes.  One of the important tasks that we tend to put off is completing our estate plan.

Reasons for procrastinating

There are many reasons people delay completing their estate plan.  The most common is that it’s uncomfortable to consider your own mortality or that you may lose our mental capacity. Estate planning also can seem confusing or complicated. You may wonder, “Do I need a Will, or a Trust or both?” or “Why do I need a Power of Attorney?” Not understanding something or not knowing the first steps to take can be overwhelming and therefore we tend to put it aside. Finally, many don’t want to pay for something now that they or their family may not benefit from for years or decades down the road.

What happens if I don’t have an estate plan?

You may be thinking, “So, what’s the problem with putting this task to the bottom of the to-do list?  My family will still be able to make decisions for me if I become incompetent and my family will get all my assets, right?”  Not necessarily. Consider the following:

Protecting Hard-Earned Family Assets

Financial planning options for long-term care may no longer be available due to changes in your health.  If you need nursing home care and assets have not been protected, then those assets will quickly dissipate as you pay for your care.  Monthly nursing costs average around $14,000 per month in many facilities, quickly depleting a family’s hard earned nest egg.  When you address these possibilities and plan before a care crisis occurs, the initial discomfort is greatly outweighed by the lasting positive effects of having a good plan in place.

Decision making during incapacity

If you are no longer competent legal documents cannot be signed, creating a whole host of other problems. Court action would be required for your family to access your finances or to make health decisions on your behalf. These proceedings, typically called a “conservatorship” or “guardianship”, are expensive, time consuming, stressful, and publicly invasive. This also subjects the court-appointed conservator or guardian to annual reviews and accountings to the Court.  Having well-crafted estate planning documents in place would avoid all of this.


If you die without an estate plan or Last Will and Testament, you have died, in legal terms, “intestate”. That means the probate laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will define, among other things, how your assets will be distributed and who will care for an of your minor children. This can cause issues if your family needs to use your assets to maintain the family home or needs a parental guardian in place to care for your children. Probate is also a public process and can take well over a year to complete. Inheritances can also be viewed by nosey neighbors, or by the creditors or ex-spouses of your children. Many families try to avoid probate where possible.

End-of-Life Wishes

An incapacitated person cannot communicate their health care or end-of-life decisions, bequests, and much more. Family members are left to guess what you would have wanted. This can result in money needlessly spent or conflict among family members as each member may have their own opinion regarding how and what decisions should be made. Having your end-of-life decisions documented and communicated to the appointed decision maker prior to a crisis can help avoid family conflict.

How to Stop Procrastinating

The first step is to take the first step. Contact an elder law or estate planning attorney to help you break through any barriers, guide you, and keep you on track. Once you start working with an estate planning attorney, you may soon realize the issues that caused the procrastination are no longer there.

Founded by a nurse attorney and with offices in Acton, Burlington, and Sudbury, Massachusetts, Generations Law Group helps families navigate the complex areas of estate planning and elder law to inform and protect loved ones of every generation.


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