Inspiring Action: The Guide to Creating or Updating Your Estate Plan

Posted by James M. Kreitler | Mar 01, 2024 | 0 Comments

Creating or revising an estate plan can feel overwhelming, causing many people to procrastinate. But the longer you put it off, the more potential there is to be caught unprepared in an emergency. So how can you motivate yourself and your loved ones to begin the process? Here are some strategies to help you overcome some of the negative feelings associated with this process and meet the challenge head on.

Reward Yourself for Your Accomplishments

While the benefits associated with updating or creating a new estate plan are a reward in and of themselves, we can all use an extra push. Sometimes the promise of a small indulgence as a reward can change your frame of mind when initiating the process. However, your idea of a reward may be more substantial and might involve a more significant gift for the entire family to enjoy. What other projects have required extra motivation in the past? How much easier might they have been to complete if you rewarded yourself or your family for their completion? Get inspired with a few meaningful ideas that could serve as a reward:

        Plan a well-deserved vacation

        Make a reservation at your favorite restaurant

        Book a family photo session

        Buy the new phone, laptop, or computer you have been eyeing

The key to an effective reward is personalization. Choose something that resonates with you and can serve as a reminder of the importance and the effort you put into completing the estate planning process, which is essential to protecting your family's future.

Break Your Estate Planning Project Down into Smaller Steps

Estate planning can be a complex process, and facing it as a whole may seem impossible. To make it more manageable, break the process down into smaller, more achievable steps.

Identify the first three steps you need to take using these suggestions:

1.       Learn more about estate planning tools and how they work. Find out what is typically included in a comprehensive estate plan, such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and advance directives.

2.       Collect financial information. Gather and organize your financial information, including a detailed inventory of your money, property, debts, and sources of income. List bank accounts, investments, real estate, insurance policies, personal belongings, and more.

3.       Set specific goals for your estate plan. Establish clear goals based on the following factors:

        Family structure

        Business and personal financial objectives

        Intentions for protecting and supporting your loved ones after your passing

        Desired lifestyle in retirement

        Wishes for how you would like to be cared for as you age

        End-of-life wishes

4.       Choose your beneficiaries, personal representatives, trustees, and agents. Determine the beneficiaries you want to inherit your money and property and the individuals you want to be responsible for managing and distributing these accounts and property after your death. Think about the people you would trust as guardians for your minor children and whom you feel comfortable choosing to make financial and medical decisions for you if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself.

5.       Ask for the help you need. Throughout this first phase of preparing your estate plan, identify estate planning attorneys as well as tax and financial professionals in your area. Schedule consultations to discuss your needs and assemble a reliable team.

6.       Review and update an existing plan. If you already have estate planning documents in place, review them for accuracy and relevance. Life circumstances such as marriages, divorces, or births, as well as changes in financial status, usually require updates. Ensure that beneficiary designations on accounts and insurance policies are current.

By following these initial steps, you will lay a solid foundation for participating in the estate planning process. Each step keeps you on track and moves you toward the larger goal of completing your estate plan.

Tell Someone about Your Plan

Accountability can be a powerful motivator. Share your intention to create or update your estate plan with a trusted friend or family member. This person can offer support and encouragement. They can also check in on your progress so you will be more likely to follow through on your commitment. For some people, simply saying the words out loud or putting them on a calendar also makes the project a priority. Choose the best way to hold yourself accountable.

Use Positive Affirmations

Still feeling reluctant to engage in estate planning? This may stem from deeper concerns or anxieties about the future and your mortality. Counteract negative thoughts and shift your mindset by using positive affirmations to focus on why you may not want to proceed with preparing an estate plan. The following affirmations may help you take the worry or fear out of estate planning by focusing on the positive benefits. You may even want to write out one or two and post them in a place where you commonly look.

        I am taking proactive steps to protect the future of my loved ones if something happens to me.

        Planning my estate is an expression of love and support for my family.

        I value the peace of mind that comes with having a detailed and thoughtful estate plan.

        My estate plan provides critical information and instructions that my spouse and children may need in emergencies.

        I recognize the importance of making decisions now to ease the burden on my loved ones later.

        My estate plan reflects my commitment to responsible financial planning and is a tangible expression of love and protection.

        Taking control of my financial and healthcare decisions throughout life is empowering.

        I approach estate planning with confidence, knowing it is a positive and necessary step for a happy and healthy family.

Repeating these affirmations regularly can help cultivate a positive mental attitude to get you through the estate planning process. And by combining these strategies, you can develop the motivation for establishing or revising your estate plan.

Making an appointment with an estate planner is often the first step. Contact us to get started.

About the Author

James M. Kreitler

James Kreitler grew up in Jefferson County, Missouri, with his family roots being in Sainte Genevieve County, Missouri. James began his legal career as a civil litigation defense attorney, defending individuals and businesses in lawsuits in both Missouri and Illinois. This defense work involved b...


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