People in their fifties and sixties are in better health than ever before in history. Because of that, they often don't see the need for estate planning. Let's face it, life is crazy busy and estate planning doesn't seem urgent. Things are going comfortably along and we all tend to think nothing will change. This is why too many people put off estate planning.
Meet Nancy Roberts, Elder Law Attorney
Nancy, an experienced Elder Law attorney in North and South Carolina, has been practicing since 1997 and is author of the book Planning Your Estate in the Carolinas: How to Finally Stop Delaying and Just Do It!. She has worked in both government and private practice during her career, including her own estate planning and elder law firm, the South Carolina Court of Appeals, and the Mecklenburg County Clerk of Court. With this experience, Nancy has a deep understanding and empathy for those navigating the estate planning process.
A personal experience changed my outlook on this. My husband and I were close friends with an inspiring couple in their fifties. We knew them for twenty plus years and they became family to us. Everything about their lives seemed perfect; they had a beautiful family, beautiful marriage, intelligent and beautiful kids, a beautiful home, and a thriving business. Both spouses were extremely healthy. In fact, I don't recall them ever being sick in the twenty plus years I knew them. Meanwhile, I had to have some surgery and as I recovered (more slowly than anticipated), I felt very sorry for myself. Why did I have to go through this? Everything seemed easy for them. It seemed they never had blah days, everyday frustrations, or surgeries. They seemed golden.
A couple of years later, the wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Because of her innate strength and luck, we thought everything would be ok and she would be fine. She had always been the exception and we didn't see any reason why this would be different. They were "rocks" and would always be there.
What happened next sent us all reeling. The wife died, the home was sold, the business closed, and the remaining family moved away to rebuild their lives in another location. The husband had to start his business all over again from scratch. We still miss them and think about them often. The wife's early death was a tragic loss. It shook my own sense of security and made me realize no one is immune from sudden change or loss. One day, things are golden and the next minute, there is a new reality. I don't know if they had an estate plan in place – I hope they did. The important takeaways for me were: 1) be grateful for what you have when you have it; 2) don't take your family for granted; and 3) make a plan to protect yourself and your family from the unexpected.
Here are five additional mistakes people in their fifties and sixties make in estate planning.
- Thinking estate planning is for “old people.”
- Thinking the will you got in your thirties when your children were young is still sufficient.
- Thinking all you need is a "simple will." This is especially dangerous if you are in a second or subsequent marriage, own a business, or have a special needs child.
- Thinking you can do it yourself by downloading cheap forms from a chatbot on the internet.
- Thinking being healthy and active now means you don't need an estate plan.
The Good News
The good news is your fifties and sixties are a perfect time to start your estate planning. Use these years to your advantage and get a plan in place now to protect from the unexpected later.
Are you ready?