When you begin the estate planning process, certain decisions have to be made by you. As it comes to your beneficiaries, you have to decide who will receive your assets and in what amounts or percentages. When it comes to distributing your estate, you must decide who will be in charge. As it relates to your health, you must decide who can speak with your medical providers on your behalf. If you have minor children, perhaps the biggest decision you face will be who will be their guardian–i.e. their caretaker–if something happens to you.
On occasion, we have clients who have difficulty making these decisions. Sometimes they experience indecision-they simply cannot decide. In other situations, their spouse or their significant other disagrees with them. One of the most common areas in which couples cannot decide or disagree is regarding who will raise their children if the parents are deceased.
In the worst of scenarios, their indecision results in what I call “planning paralysis”. They cannot decide or agree and so they do nothing. In the estate planning arena, doing nothing is tantamount to a disaster–particularly if there’s an emergency or a crisis.
A real life example may help demonstrate planning paralysis. A little over two years ago, a nice young couple came to me for some estate planning. They had several children ranging in age from two to six. Both worked so they had respectable assets for their age. After speaking, we planned to move ahead with a complete estate plan which would include a Last Will & Testament, a Living Trust, a Power of Attorney for Healthcare, a Living Will, and a Durable Power of Attorney. However, before proceeding, they wanted to talk between themselves about who would be their designated guardian to raise their children. When I did not hear back from them after ten days, I touched base and they said they were still discussing the guardian appointment. When several more weeks went by, I touched base and they again indicated that they were still undecided on the guardian. This process went on and on and eventually it became clear that they couldn’t decide or couldn’t agree on the guardian and as a result, they were doing nothing. To this day they still have not completed their estate plan. Their indecision has paralyzed them in their planning. This places them and their children at risk if something catastrophic were to occur.
Don’t let the planning paralysis get the better of you. Your family deserves better than having you fail to act.