Ignorance is Not Bliss – The Importance of Maintaining Your Estate Planning Documents

In a packed auditorium for a TEDx Conference, venerated journalist and author Tom Brokaw was asked flat out by his daughter what was in his Living Will. Why? Because she had no clue. They never talked about exactly what was in his Living Will. Even more shocking was Mr. Brokaw’s admission that “unfortunately, I don’t know a lot about my living will. In fact, I’m not even sure where it is at this point.”

Think about that for a moment – Tom Brokaw, a man who has dedicated his life to investigative journalism including intense research and scouring details of high-level public and private documents, has no clue (1) what exactly is in his Living Will and (2) where it is actually located.

Mr. Brokaw is not alone. Approximately 51 percent of Americans age 55 to 64 do not have a Last Will and Testament, or any other estate planning document for that matter. Furthermore, 62 percent of people age 45 to 54 have not drafted a Will or other estate planning document, according to NextAvenue.org. Here’s another shocking statistic – 38 percent of people with investable assets of $1 million or more do not have an estate plan, according to CNBC.com.

As an estate planning attorney, I can tell you these numbers are terrifying. If you die without a Will, trust, or any other estate plan in place, you’re essentially asking the state to figure out the details without regard to your family and friends. Dying intestate (i.e. the legal term for dying without a will) means there is no guarantee who will inherit your assets and your assets will be subject to the cold confines of statutory designation.

If You Have an Estate Plan, Great – What’s In It?

If you cannot answer that question in less than a minute, you are in trouble. Crafting a thorough, well-organized estate plan is not a one-off event. It is something you must work on year in and year out. Families change, your wishes change, assets change, and the law changes. It is important you update your plan often to reflect all these changes.

At InSight Law, we understand the importance of continually updating your estate plan and set up an ongoing maintenance plan with our clients. The clients come in and give us any changes in their family situations, and we give them the updates on the law. We view planning the estates of our clients as a relationship that lasts for years, not just a few hours.

Additionally, we get families involved in the process. We have training for beneficiaries and helpers so your family is not left in the dark when there is a disability or death situation. Finally, we use a great service called Docubank  to store your medical directives to avoid the exact situation Brokaw was in.

We do this because we want to be sure that if you get asked what’s in your Living Will, you can answer quickly and confidently. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your estate plan. Sit down with an estate planning attorney in your area and make sure you have a plan in place.